Early voting on Sundays eliminated in New Hanover County ahead of November election

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The New Hanover County Board of Elections discussing one-stop voting on Thursday. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
The New Hanover County Board of Elections discussing one-stop voting on Thursday. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

NEW HANOVER COUNTY – The New Hanover County Board of Elections has decided to eliminate early voting on Sundays for the 2016 general election in November, a resource that was available in March during North Carolina’s primary.

After viewing six different options for absentee one-stop voting and hearing about 40 people speak during a public comment session, the three-person board decided to implement the same early voting plan that was in place for the 2012 presidential election. That plan had uniform hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, during the early voting period and Saturday hours of 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The plan adopted Thursday would have the same hours over an extended 17-day early voting period (15 without the Sundays) at five different locations: the New Hanover County Government Center, the Northeast Regional Library, the Senior Resource Center, the Health Sciences building on Cape Fear Community College’s main campus and Carolina Beach Town Hall. The total number of early voting hours at all sites from Oct. 20 to Nov. 5 would be 580.

In March, the 10-day early voting period had 185 hours over 10 days, which included one Sunday. On that day, only the government center location was open with hours of noon to 8 p.m. According to the site coordinator during that time, 612 people voted on that day. Over 16,000 of the county’s 158,000 registered voters at the time cast their ballot during the early voting period.

The county boards of election across the state have had to implement new one-stop voting plans after three members of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned North Carolina’s voter identification and early voting law that was first enacted in 2013. The ruling, issued on July 29, stated that the law intentionally discriminated against minority voters.