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REPORT: NC’s Early Voting Changes Meant Greater Costs, Fewer Options During 2018 Election

DURHAM, N.C. (May 14, 2019) — N.C. lawmakers’ Early Voting changes meant greater costs to counties and fewer options for voters in the 2018 election, according to a new report released Tuesday by Democracy North Carolina. The voting rights group found that the Early Voting uniform weekday hours requirements under Senate Bill 325 (S325) drained local resources and led many counties to reduce Early Voting sites and weekend voting options in the 2018 midterm election.

Read the full report now at demnc.co/s325costs.

S325 requires counties to keep satellite Early Voting sites (any sites other than the main Board of Elections site) open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, which massively increased staffing costs. In addition to the law’s onerous weekday requirements, it also explicitly eliminated the popular last Saturday of Early Voting for all elections after 2018. Legislation was passed just before the election to add the last Saturday back in 2018 only. Democracy North Carolina’s research found that the removal of this popular weekend option in future elections would disproportionately impact young voters, Black and Latinx voters, and voters in rural counties.

Democracy North Carolina Senior Researcher Sunny Frothingham, who authored the report, said the changes under S325 not only forced counties across North Carolina to reduce popular polling hours and options in 2018, but also, without legislative changes, will set the stage for more limited access to Early Voting in 2020’s high-profile presidential election cycle.

 

 

“Under current law, counties will face the same constraints moving forward, and North Carolinians will  lose access to the heavily-used last Saturday in all future elections, including 2020.” –Democracy NC Senior Researcher, Sunny Frothingham

“Over the last decade, North Carolina has become infamous for some of the nation’s most harmful voter suppression tactics — including Senate Bill 325, which forced the majority of counties to reduce the number of weekend hours and almost half to eliminate popular voting sites” said Frothingham. “Under current law, counties will face the same constraints moving forward, and North Carolinians will  lose access to the heavily-used last Saturday in all future elections, including 2020.”

Key findings include:

  • Following the passage of S325, 43 counties reduced the number of Early Voting sites offered in 2018 compared to 2014, 51 counties reduced the number of weekend days offered, and 67 counties reduced the number of weekend hours.

  • Of the eight rural Eastern counties where a majority of registered voters are Black (Hertford, Edgecombe, Bertie, Northampton, Halifax, Vance, Warren, Washington), four of those counties (Bertie, Northampton, Halifax, and Vance) reduced sites under S325, all but Halifax County reduced weekend days, and all eight reduced the number of weekend hours during early voting. None of the eight counties increased sites or weekend options.
  • Without the last Saturday requirement in 2018, 56 counties — a majority — would have had no weekend option for voters to cast their ballots.  

Democracy North Carolina Executive Director Tomas Lopez called on the N.C. General Assembly to take immediate action and take up House Bill 893 (H893). The 2019 proposal, which was referred to the House Committee on Elections and Ethics Law last month, would restore the Early Voting law to pre-2013 flexibility, return the mandatory last Saturday of Early Voting giving all North Carolina voters a weekend voting option, and provide maximum flexibility to county Boards of Elections to design Early Voting schedules that could vary across satellite sites.

While uniform voting hours are not inherently negative, as implemented S325 makes it harder for voters to have their voices heard and for election officials to provide the robust Early Voting opportunities that North Carolina voters expect and deserve,” said Lopez. “The 2020 election cycle starts early, and will involve many more voters than cast ballots in 2018 — it’s time for lawmakers to consider legislation that would give North Carolina’s counties back the flexibility needed to make the best decisions for their resources and voters.”

Democracy North Carolina is encouraging North Carolina voters to contact their lawmakers in support of H893 at demnc.co/satvoting.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jen Jones, 919-260-5906, jen@democracync.org
DATA QUESTIONS/REQUESTS: Sunny Frothingham, 919-908-7941, sunny@democracync.org

Democracy North Carolina is a statewide nonpartisan organization that uses research, organizing, and advocacy to increase civic participation, reduce the influence of big money in politics, and remove systemic barriers to voting and serving in elected office.

Greater Costs, Fewer Options: The Impact of the Early Voting Uniform Hours Requirement in the 2018 Election

Download the full report as a .PDF.