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The ballots for North Carolina’s upcoming election have had a number of delays as cases on amendments and party affiliation wound their way through the court. Just as ballots were finally on track to meet September’s deadline for printing, Hurricane Florence came along. Now state leaders are trying to ensure those hit hard by the storm can still easily vote.
The state’s deadline to register to vote is coming up on Oct. 12. While many residents are still focused on recovering from the storm, House Elections Chairman David Lewis of Harnett County wants to extend the voter registration deadline to at least Oct. 15, similar to an extension that was provided after Hurricane Matthew. He plans to introduce a bill to do just that and make other election tweaks when state lawmakers convene today in a special session to consider relief options in the wake of Florence.
“This legislation will also require the state board and county boards of elections to educate hurricane-impacted citizens about their options for voting and registration including absentee voting and same-day registration,” said Neal Inman, who serves as Lewis’ Rules Committee Counsel.
The North Carolina NAACP, however, say that’s not enough. The group wants to see the voter registration extended till Oct. 17 and wants more voting rules eased for those affected by the storm. For example, the NAACP wants voters affected by Florence to be able to vote the way overseas voters or military personnel do. That would allow those residents to receive and return ballots by mail, fax or email.
The state board of elections has sent absentee ballot request forms and voter registration forms to all shelters across the state during the storm and to 46 places that distribute food stamps. The board says those temporarily displaced by the storm can use their home address to register if they intend on returning. If not, they should register at their new location, even if they don’t know how long they’ll be there.
A board spokesman says a few polling places may need to be moved due to damaged infrastructure, but most locations are fine. Lewis’s proposal is expected to allow county boards of elections to quickly replace damaged polling places and early voting sites.