08/26/12 — State Board of Elections will decide question of one-stop voting on Sundays

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State Board of Elections will decide question of one-stop voting on Sundays

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 26, 2012 1:50 AM

Wayne County's one-stop voting plan for the Nov. 6 general election will be reviewed by the state Board of Elections, possibly as early as the first week of September.

State Elections Director Gary Bartlett confirmed Friday that his office had been petitioned for the review by Joe Lofton, chairman of the Wayne County Board of Elections.

The local board earlier this month approved, by a 2-1 vote, a one-stop plan that does not include Sundays. Lofton, a Democrat, supported the addition of Sunday, while Democrat Chris Gurley and Republican Hal Keck voted against the proposal.

The state board has the authority to overrule the local board and require one-stop Sunday voting.

Gurley and Keck contend that later weekday voting hours and two Saturdays will provide people with plenty of opportunities to vote. Also, both said they grew up during a time when certain things, including work, were not done on Sunday. Cost, they said, is a concern as well.

However, county Democratic Party leaders say opposition to Sunday voting is politically motivated and backed by the tea party-dominated Republican Party, not because of religion or cost-effectiveness, but to achieve its goal of defeating President Barack Obama.

Sunday voting was offered in 2008 with no problems and no great expense, said Stephanie Kornegay, chairman of the Wayne County Democratic Party.

For now, though, one-stop voting will run from Thursday, Oct. 18, through Saturday, Nov. 3, excluding Sundays.

The one-stop sites will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and on Saturday, Oct. 27 and Nov. 3 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

One-stop locations will be:

* Wayne County Public Library, 1001 E. Ash St.

* First Congregational Church, 215 Sleepy Creek Road, Dudley

* Woodmen of the World Lodge 3733, U.S. 117 North, Goldsboro.

Fremont Town Hall and Johnston Ambulance Service on U.S. 70 West will serve as satellite locations that will be open during the final week of one stop, Oct. 29 through Nov. 3.

Lofton wrote in a letter supporting his request that he had reviewed statistics on Sunday voting during the 2008 election. The data revealed that the first Sunday's statistics were approximately one-half the numbers of the second Sunday, he wrote.

"As we approached the 2012 primaries and upcoming election the voting public began to voice concern about the possibility of Sunday voting," Lofton wrote. "It was 'pro' and 'con.' We did actually receive a letter from the local branch of the NAACP urging an increase in days, sites and hours including Sunday voting.

"The letter was sent to each board member and the interim (elections board) director. I don't recall any other written request that was shared with the board. I am quite sure each board member was approached at one time or another."

A copy of the NAACP letter was included in the information sent to the state.

"The board chose to address one-stop voting on several occasions," Lofton wrote. "Members of the voting public were allocated time to express their opinions. There were two points of contention: (1) Sunday as a day of worship, budget and overworking poll workers and (2) Sunday offered an opportunity for some who might not otherwise get a chance to vote, and while Sunday is a time of worship, many take the time to shop, go to the movies and engage in other activities."

Board members did agree to change the voting time from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., but split on holding Sunday voting on Oct. 28, Lofton said in the letter.

"It is my sincere hope that all votes cast were focused on providing the voting public opportunities to exercise democracy," Lofton said in the letter.

The board was unanimous in approving Sunday voting in 2008. Board members at that time were Lofton and Chairman Gene Riddle, a Democrat, and Bob Jackson, who currently serves as chairman of the Wayne County Republican Party.

Jackson said his vote had been a mistake and that he would not do it again.