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Elections board sets early voting plan for November municipal elections

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Calvin Boston-Hill

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By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Friday, September 8, 2017

An overseas telephone call to storm-damaged St. Croix on Thursday allowed Pitt County municipal voters access to five early voting sites during the upcoming early voting period that begins on Oct. 19.

The two-member Pitt County Board of Elections held a special meeting on Thursday to approve the early voting plan. The three-member elections board had been unable to finalize its plans because one of its members resigned earlier this year and the state elections board had been unable to appoint a replacement because of a court battle over new election rules implemented by the Republican-led General Assembly after Democrat Roy Cooper was elected governor in 2016.

The N.C. Supreme Court issued an order late Friday allowing two-member elections boards to make plans for upcoming municipal elections as long as the vote was unanimous, said Dave Davis, Pitt County elections director. State elections officials set Friday as the deadline for adopting early voting plans that expand beyond the minimal requirements set by state law.

State elections officials sent out the notice late last Friday and because of the Labor Day holiday, Davis said, he wasn’t able to organize and publicize Thursday's meeting until Tuesday.

The other hurdle that had to be overcome was board member Calvin Boston-Hill was vacationing with family in St. Croix, which is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

While St. Croix sustained less damage than other Caribbean Islands, residents were reporting power outages and downed trees. Its airport was open only to military aircraft which was bringing in patients from hospitals on nearby St. Thomas, said Boston-Hill, who was reached via cellphone.

Boston-Hill reported that he, his wife Renee Boston-Hill, and family were fine and were waiting to see when they could fly out of St. Croix. He said they had been scheduled to fly into San Juan, Puerto Rico, but they were hearing that city’s airport was demolished by the storm.

"I know the furthest thing from your mind was having a meeting this week," said Patrick Nelson, elections board chairman.

Despite staticky reception and delayed response between Boston-Hill's telephone and the elections board telephone, Davis reported staff proposed using the same early voting locations and times that were used during the 2015 municipal election period.

Under that proposal, the early voting site at the Center at Alice F. Keene Park will be open the first eight days of the early voting period which begins on Oct. 19.

The operating hours for that location are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 19-Nov. 3, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 4.

Starting Oct. 31, four other early voting sites will open; Pitt County Agricultural Center, 403 Government Circle; PATS Conference Room, County Office Building, 1717 W. Fifth St.; East Carolina University Willis Building, 300 E. First St.; and Winterville Fire Station Community Room, 2593 Railroad St., Winterville.

These sites will be open from 9 a.m to 6 p.m. Oct. 31-Nov. 3 and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 4.

Davis said the cost of operating the early voting sites at the center at Keene Park and the agricultural center are shared by the nine municipalities holding elections this year. The city of Greenville pays to operate the sites at the Willis Building and PATS office, and the town of Winterville funds the site its fire station.

The four sites only operate the final week of early voting to save expenses "and because of turnout we've seen during these municipal elections the demand is not there," Davis said.

Boston-Hill proposed adopting the plan and Nelson concurred.

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570. Follow her on Twitter @GingerLGDR.

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