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Wednesday, 24 August 2016 11:48

Haywood Board of Elections copes with changes

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The recent ruling out of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit may have county elections boards across North Carolina grappling with required changes in time for November’s General Election, but things are proceeding smoothly in Haywood County, according to Robert Inman, director of the Haywood County Board of Elections.

The state’s 2013 voter identification law was struck down in late July after it was judged to purposely target African-Americans with what the court called “almost surgical precision.” 

“The only thing that really has affected us is that you will no longer be required to show photo identification when you present yourself to vote,” said Inman. 

Although the loosened requirements will save some time for voters at the polls, the real challenge for counties lies in dealing with the extension of early voting. 

“In 2013, the omnibus bill created a shorter one-stop early voting period and took away one week,” Inman said. “What this fourth circuit did was to reverse that and add those days back.”

That means this year’s early voting period runs from 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20 to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5.

As a result, directors like Inman now must ensure that sites are available for utilization as polling stations during the early voting period; Inman said that the board of elections would submit a required plan to the state well in advance of the Aug. 24 deadline, but that other counties may encounter problems with theirs. 

“Some other counties are not unanimous in their plan,” he said. “Therefore it gets argued and argued and argued.” 

Inman mentioned the challenges involved in ensuring potential sites have adequate lighting, security, are free of safety issues, and are accessible in the event of inclement weather.

“Although it seems very simple, it’s really not,” he said. “It gets to be complex. Here in Haywood, we understand that it would be different and we may do things differently if we had a mall, where you could operate in a kiosk. Pretty much if you can make it to a mall parking lot, it’s a summer day. But some people will argue about a college campus versus a senior center — those are some of the arguments you will be hearing across the state.”

What’s more, the scramble to ensure adequate voter access during the election may be all for naught.

In mid-August, N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory asked U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to stay what he called a “common sense” voter ID law. 

Were that to occur, county elections boards would have to walk back all of the extended early voting hours and locations, as well as prepare to enforce once again voter ID regulations the Fourth Circuit called “one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history.”

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