Raleigh, N.C. — Wake County voters will be able to cast their ballots on at least one Sunday during the early voting period for the 2014 general election.
The Wake County Board of Elections voted 2-1 Tuesday to keep Sunday voting for the 2014 cycle. At eight early voting locations, which the board will choose next year, polls will be open for four hours on Saturday and Sunday. The decision is subject to a possible appeal by the board's dissenting member.
The Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a sweeping elections law this year that shortened the number of days over which early voting can take place. But the law also required counties keep polls open for the same number of total hours as in prior elections.
County boards of elections have a great deal of discretion in how to set those hours. Republican majorities control all 100 county boards of elections due to a state law that shifts control based on the party of the sitting governor.
Many observers have expected Republicans to do away with Sunday voting entirely by extending voting hours on other days.
Sunday voting has been especially popular with black churches that run "Souls to the Polls" programs. Conventional wisdom says those votes favor Democrats.
But on Tuesday afternoon, Wake County bucked expectations.
"I think it's absolutely vital in maintaining trust in this board," said Mark Ezzell, the Democratic member of the three-member county board. "Taking it away – that's going to be on us."
Board Chairman David Robinson, one of two Republican members, voted with Ezzell in favor of keeping Sunday voting hours for the 2014 general election. While Robinson said he personally opposes Sunday voting, he voted for it because he believes there is demand for it.
"We have a fiduciary duty to listen to the community," Robinson said. "More voters is better for us – all the time."
The board's other Republican, Brian Ratledge, opposed the proposal because of the Sunday voting provision. Ratledge has the option of appealing his own board's decision to the State Board of Elections.
The board voted that there would be no Sunday voting during the May 2014 primary. This is consistent with early voting schedules from previous elections in Wake County, when there has been no Sunday voting during the primary. Early voting in the primary will be open on Saturdays in most locations for limited hours.
Although the board won't decide on general election early voting locations until early next year, members did unanimously approve four primary early voting sites in addition to the Board of Elections office in downtown Raleigh –the same number as in 2010. The locations are:
- Herbert C. Young Community Center in Cary
- Knightdale Recreation Center in Knightdale
- Lake Lynn Community Center in Raleigh and
- W.E. Hunt Recreation Center in Holly Springs
That's a departure from 2010's primary early voting locations at the Cedar Fork Community Center in Morrisville, the Chavis Community Center in downtown Raleigh, the Falcon Park Hut in Fuquay-Varina and the Millbrook Tennis Center in North Raleigh.