State News

N.C. GOP lashes out at voting sites near Obama rally

Posted October 19, 2008 4:23 p.m. EDT
Updated October 20, 2008 4:12 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina's Republican leaders lashed out at a county elections board that expanded the number of early voting sites open Sunday, saying it only accommodated people attending a rally for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

Terri Robertson, director of Cumberland County's elections, said she was concerned that a crush of people Sunday afternoon would leave her staff working all night to process voters. Elections officials are required to process anyone who is in line by close of polls at 5 p.m.

"We decided that the best thing to do for our staff was to open two more sites so they weren't up all night processing voters," Robertson said, noting about 4,000 people in Cumberland County cast ballots on the first day of early voting last week.

The full county elections board, including one Republican member, voted unanimously on Friday to open two additional voting sites Sunday, bringing the total to five. The State Board of Elections also approved the move.

More than 2,500 people lined up Sunday at the five early-voting sites in Cumberland County to cast ballots, Robertson said.

The county doesn't plan to open voting sites on Sundays for the rest of the early voting period, but will have polling places open the next two Saturdays as well as week days, according to a schedule on the state elections Web site.

Linda Daves, chairwoman of the state Republican Party, said the party supports extra early voting capacity, but the GOP opposes such a move when it is taken to accommodate people surrounding Obama's campaign.

"Their action makes the voting process an extension of a partisan political rally and that is clearly inappropriate," Daves said.

More than 271,000 people have cast ballots statewide since last Thursday, when the early-voting period opened. About 60 percent of them are registered Democrats, about three times the number of registered Republicans who have voted, state officials said.

Obama's rally in Fayetteville, which ended mid-afternoon Sunday, drew more than 10,000 supporters, many of whom weren't able to get into the speech because of the crowded stadium but listened to it from speakers outside. His campaign has focused heavily on getting supporters to the polls before Election Day, and he continued that mantra Sunday.

"If you like what you hear today, and if you're ready for change, and if you haven't voted yet, don't wait until Nov. 4," Obama told the crowd. "We want to get as many votes in as possible as early as possible."

The Republicans plan to increase their early vote focus in the coming week with a number of scheduled events. Early voting lasts until Nov. 1.