N.C. State University will have an early voting site at the Talley Student Center this fall.
The state elections board on Sunday adopted an early voting plan proposed by Democrats in Wake County over a Republican plan that did not include an N.C. State location.
The early voting plan for Wake, approved along party lines with the unaffiliated state board member voting with Democrats, gives the county 10 early voting sites. All but one — the county elections office — will be open every day of the early voting period.
Republicans on the Wake elections board argued that the student center would be too hard for people who don’t live or work on campus to get to.
“It’s a horrible place to have an early voting site,” said Eddie Woodhouse, a Wake elections board member. “N.C. State University on purpose limits its access with its gates, with its aggressive ticketing. There’s no way to make it an ideal place to vote.” Wake Republicans suggested as an alternative an early voting location at the Method Community Center, located in a neighborhood off campus.
Greg Flynn, a Democrat on the Wake elections board, said the NC State neighborhood had the highest concentration of voters in the county. The university requires freshmen to live on campus, and few have cars, Flynn said.
At the N.C. State voting site in 2016, 44 percent of the voters were 18 to 25 years old, said Pressly M. Millen, a lawyer representing Wake’s Democratic members.
The State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement decides on county early voting hours when local boards cannot come to unanimous agreements. The state board is free to select one of the options the county board discussed or to come up with its own plan.
The state board also voted Sunday to establish early voting hours for the first time in Orange County, and to keep Sunday hours in Durham’s early voting schedule.
Some Democrats on the state board said it’s hard to park at the Method Community Center, especially during the N.C. State Fair.
“I don’t find it to be a very good compromise, particularly not when compared to the Talley student union,” state board Chairman Andy Penry said.
Republican state board member Ken Raymond said it was the local board’s job to serve all voters, not just students.
“Unfortunately, some students think the mission is to serve the college campuses,” Raymond said.
The state elections board settled voting plans for 15 counties. In many of those, local elections officials could not agree on Sunday voting hours. Democrats on the state board, and the unaffiliated member, favored plans with Sunday hours, while Republicans tended to oppose them.
“Especially with all the constitutional amendments floating around, we have to make sure the people have the opportunity to voice their opinion,” said state board member Damon Circosta, the unaffiliated member. Voters will decide on six proposed changes to the state constitution this fall.
Black churches often sponsor “Souls to the Polls” during early voting in which churchgoers travel together to an early voting site on a Sunday.
Local elections officials from counties that wanted to expand early voting to Sundays said the added days helped increase turnout.
The state board adopted the early voting plan endorsed by Democrats on the Orange County elections board, which includes Sunday hours for the first time. Republicans on the Orange County board submitted plans with no Sunday hours.
“African-Americans are capable of finding the polls during the week,” said Raymond, one of the Republican state board members.
Orange County elections board member Elvira Mebane said Sunday hours don’t benefit just African-Americans.
“We are also looking at our senior population, people who don’t have transportation,” she said. “We don’t have public transportation where they can get to the polls, run in and vote. We’re looking at making it easier for people to vote.”
This year’s early voting period starts Wednesday, Oct. 17, and ends Saturday, Nov. 3.
Here are Wake’s early voting sites:
Wake County Board of Elections office, 337 S. Salisbury St., Raleigh
Apex Community Center, 53 Hunter St., Apex
Chavis Community Center, 505 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Raleigh
Herbert C. Young Community Center, 101 Wilkinson Ave., Cary
Knightdale Recreation Center, 101 Lawson Ridge Rd., Knightdale
Lake Lynn Community Center, 7921 Ray Rd., Raleigh
NCSU Talley Student Center, 2610 Cates Ave., Raleigh
Northern Regional Center, 350 E. Holding Ave., Wake Forest
Optimist Community Center, 5900 Whittier Drive, Raleigh
Wake Technical Community College, South Campus , 9101 Fayetteville Rd., Raleigh
All sites except the Board of Elections office will be open every Saturday and Sunday during the early voting period, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays and 1-6 p.m. Sundays. On Nov. 3, the final Saturday of early voting, the Board of Elections office will open along with the other locations.