LAURINBURG — The Scotland County Board of Elections agreed on Monday to petition the state elections board for an exemption from the number of early voting hours required in the November general election.
For May’s primary election, the board fulfilled the 113-hour minimum by opening a second early voting location at Scotland Place Civic Center for five days. But that location, according to Elections Director Dell Parker, netted an average of only five to 12 voters per hour for a total of 317 votes over the week — less than 13 percent of the county’s total early voting turnout.
With low voter turnout at Scotland Place, the county’s $3,090 cost to pay election staff at the location — or just under $10 per voter — did not prove financially sound.
The board opened the auxiliary location for the first time this year in order to provide the required number of voting hours in the newly-truncated voting period, shortened from 17 days to 10 by the General Assembly in last year’s changes to state voting law.
“What we’re looking at right now, if the board is in agreement, is asking for a 15 hour reduction,” said Parker.
That reduction, to 98 early voting hours total, would enable all early voting in November to be held at the county annex on Cronly Street with the polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays from Oct. 23-Oct. 31, and voting on two Saturdays: Oct. 25 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Nov. 1 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Parker said that her conversations with N.C. Board of Elections elections specialist George McCue indicate that a request for reduced hours will likely be granted. For this year’s primary elections, 32 counties successfully applied to run fewer hours of early voting.
“As long as the board as a whole is in agreement with the reduction in hours, from what he has seen, they’re giving it to them,” she said.
“If you’re doing 7 in the morning to 7 at night, you can’t squeeze too many more hours in there because we’re going to have to close out, so we’re still probably looking at 6:30 to 8:30 as far as staff.”
The request was signed on Monday by all three members of the county elections board. Depending on the outcome of an ongoing case in federal district court, it may be redundant.
On Monday, civil rights groups and agencies including the state NAACP, American Civil Liberties Union, and U.S. Department of Justice faced the state in Winston-Salem in an attempt to have the parts of the 2013 law requiring Voter ID, abbreviating the early voting period, eliminating same-day voter registration at early voting and pre-registration for 16 and 17-year olds delayed until the law is revisited in its entirety next year.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 17. Follow her on Twitter @emkaylbg.