Pitt breaks early voting records, some concerns persist
Sunday, March 13, 2016
Early voting wrapped up Saturday and Pitt County voters turned out in record numbers ahead of Tuesday’s primary.
Residents cast 13,174 ballots during the 10-day early voting period, according to results from the Pitt County Board of Elections. That is 5,038 more than the 8,137 voters who turned out during the 2012 primary election early voting period.
"I’m very pleased to see the larger turnout. That’s our whole purpose, to make sure everyone has the opportunity to cast a ballot,” said Dave Davis, Pitt County elections director. This year’s early turnout is the highest ever for a presidential primary in Pitt County.
"I think the higher turnout is due to excitement about candidates and people becoming more comfortable with One-Stop voting," Davis said. "It seems with each election the number increases of those who vote early. It’s becoming the standard voting method for many voters."
A concern over this year's period was the impact of requiring voters to present photo identification. "A lot of provisionals we have are due to voters not having ID with a current name and address," Davis said. "They had photo ID but nothing with a current address."
The head of a state voter advocacy group said the organization is receiving reports about election officials being confused about the rules governing expired identification and when out-of-state identification is acceptable.
"There are problems with uniformity in the interpretation of the law. It depends on the quality of advice to voters attempting to understand how to present alternative documentation of ID information," said Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina.
Expired photo identification can be used in limited instances, according to the State Board of Elections. North Carolina driver licenses, learner permits and provisional licenses can be presented up to four years after their expiration. Out-of-state driver licenses or identification cards can be presented by voters who register within 90 days of Election Day.
Hall said the General Assembly's 2013 decision to end same-day registration during the early voting period will leave thousands of potential voters disenfranchised. A court injunction prevented the enforcement of the new rule this early voting period.
"The State Board of Elections is reporting that more than 7,000 people have used same-day registration to cast a ballot in this election," Hall said Friday. "They would have otherwise been shut out. It saved them from essentially being disenfranchised," he said.
Many of these voters were young adults who moved to North Carolina to attend college and didn't realize their voter registration didn't transfer from their home state. Pitt County had 206 people take advantage of same-day registration and voting as of Thursday, Davis said.
Hall worries rule changes may discourage some people from voting on Tuesday. "People don't like to go to vote because they don't like to feel insecure and uncomfortable and feel like they are going to be questioned and won't know the answer."
Voters must go to their assigned precinct on Tuesday. Voters who go to the wrong precinct may cast a provisional ballot. "Out-of-precinct" voting is the subject of a federal lawsuit. It is currently permittted because the U.S. Court of Appeals issued a injunction. Voters can find their precinct and other voter information specific to their registration by visiting https://vt.ncsbe.gov/Voter_Search_Public/ and searching on their names. Party members must vote in their party primary; non-affiliated voters may choose in which primary they wish to vote.
Voters must show a North Carolina driver’s license or learner’s permit, a North Carolina identification card, a U.S. passport or passport card, military identification, a veterans identification card or certain tribal enrollment cards. College and other student identification are not acceptable.
“All voters should be prepared to present acceptable photo ID along with stating their name, address and party affiliation,” Davis said. “Photo ID should be taken out of their wallets and pocketbooks to hand over to the poll worker. It will be returned to them as soon as they’re finished verifying the information.”
Voters who do not have photo identification will be treated as provisional voters. They will be allowed to cast ballots, but the votes will not be counted until the final canvass when elections officials have verified the individuals are registered and voting in the correct precincts.
Voters without proper identification will have to sign forms stating the reason. The form lists eight reasons for not having an ID, and the voter must check one or list another reasonable impediment.
A voter using the reasonable impediment declaration still must present some form of identification such as the last four digits of his or her Social Security number, a voter registration card or bank statement, a paycheck stub, a government check or other government document or a current utility bill.
Along with selecting the candidates that will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot, North Carolina voters will decide a $2 billion statewide bond referendum.
Connect NC will fund $980 million worth of construction projects for the University of North Carolina system, including a $90 million Life Sciences and Biotechnology Building for East Carolina University. The state community college system will receive $350 million, including $8.4 million for Pitt Community College.
More than $309 million will be spent on water and sewer infrastructure projects statewide. The remaining funding will go to the state's parks system, the N.C. Zoo, agriculture, N.C. National Guard and state public safety programs.
Including the ECU and PCC projects, a total of $152 million of bond proceeds will be spent in eastern North Carolina. ECU's life sciences building will house the university's Pharmaceutical Development and Manufacturing Center of Excellence, bioprocess and biomedical engineering program and a new home for the school's biology department, including laboratories and research spaces for scientists and students.
About a quarter of PCC's expected $8.4 million will be used to renovate the Everette building, which houses the college library, President Dennis Massey said last month. The college is currently updating its master plan which will help determine how the remaining money will be spent.
More details about the bond are available at http://connect.nc.gov.
A group called NC Against The Bond formed in January to oppose the measure. Its organizers say the projects should be evaluated and funded on individual merits. The group's website is http://againstthebond.com.
Mixed drink vote
Ayden voters will decide if they want to permit the sale of mixed beverages in hotels, restaurants, private clubs, community theaters and convention centers within the town’s municipal limits.
The 3rd Congressional District primary will appear on Pitt County ballots that are in that district even though the primary for that and other congressional races has been delayed until June 7 because of a federal court order to redraw district lines.
Absentee voting had already begun for the primary when the order was issued, so ballots could not be changed. The state elections board is encouraging voters to mark their choices in the race, Davis said.
“Voters should vote every contest and candidate they wish to vote for. The whole situation has not been resolved and at this point no one knows how it will all play out; mark your ballot accordingly to ensure your vote is counted.”
Pitt County is split between the 1st and 3rd Congressional Districts. There is no primary election in the 1st District. There is a Republican primary in the 3rd District.
Contact Ginger Livingston at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-329-9570. Follow her on Twitter @GingerLGDR.
Visit reflector.com/election for more coverage and voter information. Check Monday and Tuesday’s edition of the Reflector for a list of polling places.