June 26, 2018/Press

Elections Officials: GOP Changes to Early Voting Will Mean Fewer Sites, No Weekend Hours, Cuts to Early Voting

Raleigh – County election boards are facing a harsh new choice because of Republicans’ unfunded mandate and cuts to early voting: keep early voting on the weekends but cut voting sites or have the usual number of early voting sites but no weekend early voting.

Elections officials from across the state – in small, medium, and large counties – are already grappling with these backdoor cuts and how to find staff for 12-hour days 17 days in a row.

In smaller counties, the effects are dramatic:

Hyde County: When [Hyde County elections director Viola] Williams heard that the new law would mandate all early voting sites open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for 17 days, she knew what it meant for her office. They would no longer be able to afford the Ocracoke site …“I hate it for them,” Williams said of voters on Ocracoke who will lose the convenient one-stop registration and early voting site the county has always been able to provide. “It’s such a disadvantage for them. But I don’t know how we can do it.” [Policy Watch, 6/19/18]

Medium sized counties face the same choice. Pitt County would be more than $53,000 short if it operated its typical early voting plan, leaving elections officials with three bad remedies that, at the minimum, mean closing two early voting sites:

Pitt County: Pitt County’s fiscal year 2018-19 budget includes $73,574 to fund early voting, [Elections Director Dave] Davis said … It would cost the county $126,757 to operate seven sites Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Davis said. [Daily Reflector, 6/21/18]

These changes also make it hard for election officials to find staff for 12-hour days 17 days in a row:

Pitt County: While the voting period is 12 hours, poll workers work an additional hour opening and closing the site, [Davis] said. The average Pitt County poll worker is 69 and a number of them have health conditions. “Our worry is (with) a 13-hour day, we are going to lose a lot of workers,” Davis said. The problem could be partially offset by splitting shifts, which is allowed during early voting, but that could increase the budget. [Daily Reflector, 6/21/18]

Guilford County: “It’s definitely going to change the algebra of how we do this,” said Charlie Collicutt, director of elections in Guilford County … “With 12 hour days we’re either going to have to pay a lot of overtime or do split shifts and then have to double our staffing,” Collicutt said. “For staff, Election Day is a 13 hour day that that’s a hard day. To do that for 17 days straight that’s going to be a change for us.” [Daily Reflector, 6/21/18]

The most populous counties in Wake and Mecklenburg will also face tough choices about how to allocate already strained resources:

Mecklenburg County: The new schedule will stretch resources further and cause [Mecklenburg County elections director Michael Dickerson] to hire more staff to avoid working people for 12 hour shifts. As the state’s largest county, they’ll likely swing the costs and extra work involved in reacting to the law — something Dickerson said he knows is easier for his office than for smaller counties like Hyde … “What you have to do with elections is plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Dickerson said. “I appreciate the legislature bringing things that happen in elections to the forefront…but we’d like to know about things as early as possible so that we can properly execute it…” [Policy Watch, 6/19/18]

“Republicans changes to early voting will stretch budgets and staff thin, causing cuts to early voting,” NCDP Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds said. “This was a feature not a bug. Republicans are facing an unprecedented wave of Democratic enthusiasm and are trying to rig our elections to stay in power.”