09/05/12 — State Board of Elections approves Sunday

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State Board of Elections approves Sunday

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 5, 2012 1:46 PM

The state Board of Elections by a 3-2 party-line vote Tuesday morning overrode last month's decision by the Wayne County Board of Elections not to include a Sunday in its one-stop voting plan.

Democrats Larry Leake, chairman, Robert Cordle, secretary, and Ronald G. Penny voted to include the Sunday vote. Republican members Charles Winfree and Jay Hemphill voted no.

The ruling only applies to adding Sunday, Oct. 28, when the polls would be open from 1 to 5 p.m.

The decision was not unexpected, said Gary Bartlett of Goldsboro, state elections board director.

"One of the things that our board instructed us to do directly after the first primary, where Sunday voting was a question, they told us before the plans for the general election come out that any Sunday voting that came up on appeal be approved," he said. "And of course it was approved according to party lines. That was sent out to the counties in mid-summer."

Bartlett said the totals were not yet ready, but that the state has a "bunch" of counties that will have Sunday one-stop voting.

"I know that Mecklenburg, Guilford, Forsyth and Wake, the 'bigs' as we refer to them, will be having it," he said. "(County plans) will be on our website soon, but I would not be surprised to have 20 counties or more. We will put all of this (county) information online now that it is complete."

The state board's review had been sought by Wayne County Board of Elections Chairman Joe Lofton, who wanted the county's one-stop voting to include one Sunday.

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

Gurley and Keck said they opposed Sunday voting because of cost and having people work on Sunday -- something that was not done when they were growing up.

The later weekday voting hours and two Saturdays included in the plan should provide people with plenty of opportunities to vote, they said.

However, county Democratic Party leaders call the opposition politically motivated and backed by the tea party-dominated Republican Party to achieve its goal of defeating President Barack Obama.

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

Only Lofton spoke at the Tuesday state board meeting.

"(Keck's and Gurley's) recourse was today," Bartlett said. "I can't speak for them, but they were aware of the state board's message on Sunday voting.

"Wayne County happened to be the last in a long line of appeals, and it was pretty much cut and dried. It probably lasted no more than five minutes. The meeting was dedicated to appeals."

The session started at 10 a.m. and finished around noon on a garden variety of appeals including issues like additional sites or extended hours, he said.

There was little comment among board members on the Wayne County decision, Bartlett said.

By that time a lot of the rhetoric, the "back and forth" had been stated and there was no need to "rehash" it, he said.

"The biggest reason (for Sunday voting) is to ensure that all eligible registered voters can participate either during the early voting period or on Election Day," he said. "Certainly I can cite for you all of the different reasons for and against Sunday voting, but when it comes down to it, we want every eligible voter to exercise their right and participate."

Meanwhile, county residents had the opportunity this morning to look over the Wayne County Board of Elections' plans for the Nov. 6 general election. The public meeting began at 8:30 a.m. at the County Administration Building, 209 S. William St.

One-stop voting in the county will be held from Thursday, Oct. 18, through Saturday, Nov. 3. Following the state's action, it now includes Sunday, Oct. 28.

The 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. at the Wayne County Public Library, 1001 E. Ash St.; First Congregational Church, 215 Sleepy Creek Road, Dudley; and Woodmen of the World Lodge 3733, U.S. 117 North, Goldsboro.

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