The following is a Facebook post by Gerry Cohen, former Special Counsel to the North Carolina General Assembly. Mr. Cohen was head of the legislature’s bill drafting department until his retirement earlier this year. His reputation for fairness and excellence has garnered him universal praise from Republicans and Democrats alike, and he is one of the most respected and beloved figures to ever work at the General Assembly.
One of the points of election law litigation currently going on was that the reduction of early voting days from 17 to 10 would disenfranchise voters. A floor amendment on the bill required (except with unanimous bipartisan approval by the State Board of Elections) that early voting be conducted with the same number of site hours in 2014 as in 2010. The State Board approved reductions in 30 smaller counties, but the final statewide total for 2014 will show 96.8% of the hours as were operated in 2010 (a drop from 26,579.5 to 25,736) Much more importantly, the 2014 hours are MUCH more convenient for voters. 98 counties have had their plans approved, Brunswick and Mecklenburg are still working out details. The issue for Brunswick is whether or not there will be Sunday voting, so I note that with an asterisk, for Mecklenburg all is agreed on except the location of one of the 21 sites. All data below is for ALL 100 counties.
TOTAL SITES: 2014 – 366, 2010 – 296, a 24% increase over 2010.
SUNDAYS: Much has been said about Sunday voting. In 2010, there was Sunday voting in Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Pitt, Vance, Wake and Mecklenburg (7 counties). For 2014, it will be at least 10* counties – Ashe, Catawba, Durham, Forsyth, Hertford, Mecklenburg, Sampson, Vance, Wake, and Wayne. *The State Board of Elections has yet to decide on Sunday voting in Brunswick.
SATURDAYS: There has been a huge increase in Saturday hours. In 2010, 66 counties had just one Saturday, 20 had two, and 14 had three, while 2014 shows 20 with one Saturday and 80 with two.
WEEKDAY EVENINGS: In 2010, 46 counties had NO weekday hours after 5 pm (a real joke for most voters). In 2014, it’s just 3 counties that close at 5. In 2010, voting ran until 7 or 8 pm in 27 counties, in 2014 that’s ramped up to 71 counties.
I have personal issues with the lack of sites on or near college campuses, and squabbling in Forsyth, Guilford and Lincoln Counties resulted in less than desirable plans. But that’s not a legal issue.
All in all, however, I think plaintiffs are barking up the wrong tree in litigating early voting hours and days. The current State Board of Elections has adopted plans that are MUCH more useful to voters than under the old law. If you like almost half the counties closing up early voting at 5 pm, I guess the 2010 plan is the one to advocate for.
Gerry Cohen was Special Counsel to the North Carolina General Assembly for 37 years until his retirement this summer. Mr. Cohen remains in the thick of things, however, and has an active and informative social media presence. Be sure to follow Mr. Cohen on Twitter and Facebook — and to learn more about this fascinating man, have a listen to this great interview from WUNC Public Radio: Meet the ‘Encyclopedia to the Legislature’ Gerry Cohen.