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Local elections board ponders early voting schedule


Voting booths were set up inside of the Pitt Area Transit conference room, to prepare for Early Voting Wednesday, April 18, 2018.


By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Pitt County Board of Elections is scheduled to adopt an early voting plan for the upcoming General Election during a special called meeting today at 5 p.m.

The board may be short one member as it makes its decision, since Daniel Entzminger stepped down last month after filing as a judicial candidate. While the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. today in part to fill vacant county seats, as of mid-Wednesday the state GOP had not submitted a replacement candidate for the board’s consideration.

Pitt County Elections Director Dave Davis will present four scheduling options to the board. Davis said the board may choose one or may create their own plan.

If the selected plan does not receive unanimous approval, the state elections board must make the decision.

Earlier in the year the General Assembly approved legislation that required counties operating multiple early voting sites to have them open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays during the early voting period, which this year runs from Oct. 17-Nov. 2.

The legislation gave counties the option of having early voting on Saturday and Sunday if all sites are open. However, it canceled early voting on the Saturday before the General Election, a day that has been popular among African-American voters.

Legislation restoring early voting on that Saturday was subsequently passed and the governor signed it on Monday.

When the new legislation was first adopted, the Pitt County board was faced with a choice of having early voting on the weekends or having seven early voting sites open on weekdays.

A seven-site, seven-day early voting period would place a financial burden on the county and could tire poll workers, Davis said. Three other options that were discussed in June involved either closing early voting sites in Farmville, Ayden and East Carolina University’s Willis Building and allowing weekend voting or keeping those sites along with the center at Alice Keene Park, the Pitt County Agricultural Center and the PATS conference room at the County Office Building open during the weekdays but having no weekend voting.

Now that voting on the final Saturday has been restored, Davis said the change has been incorporated into the plans the board will review.

Board replacement

It’s unclear why the state elections board had not received the names of two candidates recommended to replace Entzminger.

Pitt County Republican Party Chairman Mark Stewart said he submitted the names of Debbie Avery and Lee Allen to the county’s state liaison on Monday and the individual confirmed she received the nomination.

“We had hoped that whoever the state board chose they would be able to meet at the next county board of elections meeting and vote,” said Stewart, who previously served on the local elections board.

“I would prefer that it be a full board making a decision, that way we would have a broader selection of representatives making the call,” Stewart said. “Even if the state board doesn’t seat the fourth individual, I trust the other three will make a good decision.”

The county elections board consists of four members, two Democrats and two Republicans. Entzminger was a Republican appointee.

Stewart’s appointment decision comes after the Pitt County Chapter of the NAACP protested that no African-American members serve on the board. The Democratic Party did not recommend the reappointment of former elections board member Calvin Boston-Hill earlier this year.

Stewart said while he never discussed a possible minority appointment with NAACP leaders, he did approached two African-American members of the local GOP about serving on the elections.

They declined because of their existing workload and concerns they could not meet the elections board’s time requirements, he said.

“These two individuals I had in mind, it had nothing to do with race, I just really liked these individuals and I have since I met them. They are inspiring to me,” he said.

Stewart said he had reached out to one of the individuals before the NAACP had raised concerns.