Alexandra Olgin / WFAE
North Carolina voters are again addressing changes as the state carries out its elections. At a time when early voting is becoming increasingly popular, a new law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature will cast nearly 20 percent fewer votes before election day.
According to Democrats, the changes may disproportionately affect African Americans voters, but some local Republican officials also complain about the changes, arguing that they impose too much oversight on electoral administration and result in an unfinished state mandate.
The 17-day early election period of the state, which begins Wednesday, is very popular. More than 60 percent of North Carolina voters made an early election vote in 2016, according to the US state election panel.
In Gaston County, west of Charlotte, electoral director Adam Ragan said the county cut its early polling stations five to three due to the law passed in June. The law requires that all locations within a district must be open from 7:00 to 19:00. during the week. Previously, counties in charge of election administration had room to set the number of hours early polling stations could be open.
"I would have liked to have more early polling stations," Ragan said, having more locations to support more voters than our fiduciary responsibilities to the county.
North Carolina has fallen to zero in the last decade's partisan election campaigns, and since 2010 a series of laws passed by the Republican-controlled legislature on voter identification, redistribution and early elections have been rejected by courts at various places.
When the legislature debated the early electoral law in June, Amos Quick said the requirement that if an early election site is open at the weekend, the rest of a district's web sites also need to be open, could deter counties from having weekend hours
"Weekend early voting was preferred. .by certain populations, "said Quick, referring to African-American voters." Certain populations whose electoral rights were not only highlighted but protected in recent court decisions. "
In 2016, a federal appeals court ruled on a law passed in 2013 calling for Early ballot by a week reduced and eliminated day-registration and out-of-home voting targeted African Americans with "surgical precision."
The three-judge panel of the ten US Circuit Appeals Court wrote GOP legislators for racial data asked about the collapse of early voting usage and after learning that more African-Americans who generally support Democrats voted early in comparison to white voters, they amended the bill to eliminate the first week of early voting.
Republican rep David Lewis, who is in favor of the recent polls During the debate on the bill, it said that minimizing confusion was the goal for voters
"What we intend to do is to make it more reliable and reliable. For voters would I know that the early polling stations or locations in their district were open from a fixed time in the morning to a set time in the evening, "he said, pointing out that early polling stations were open throughout the state
while Republicans In the powerful legislation of the state supporting the law at the county level, the law has come in a cross-party opposition.
"Frustrated is the word I would use". said Ron Wyatt, chairman of Iredell County GOP. The county, located north of Charlotte, has halved its early polling stations due to the law.
Wyatt argues that the bill would contradict the Republican general focus on local control and says that it translates as an unfunded mandate for counties.
Counties with smaller election budgets such as Iredell are disproportionately affected by this change. While individual polling stations may be open longer, there will be 17 percent fewer pages of this poll, according to the State Board of Elections.
For voters, convenience trumps more hours, said Charles Stewart III, a MIT political scientist studying polling
"There are many studies that suggest that whenever a polling station moves away from a voter, they choose less there, "said Stewart.
Stewart hypothesized that the new law could change turnout from the early legislature to Election Day, which could mean lengthy elections.
In a state where the right to vote has become such a political hot potato, election officials say they are used to adjusting in the short term.
"Due to court cases, laws that affect all these things," said Becky Galliher, the election commissioner in Iredell County. "It seems we always have something that leads us in a different direction."