Durham News: Opinion

Durham Co. Board of Elections: Vote early to avoid long lines

Note: The following statement was released Thursday.

The Durham County Board of Elections welcomes and encourages every registered voter to take advantage of the opportunity to vote early.

The Durham County BOE operates in a bipartisan fashion to meet the needs and desires of the community. When it was crafting the original 10-day early voting plan, prior to the reversal of the North Carolina voting laws by the courts, the BOE solicited and welcomed community input regarding locations and hours. As a result, the BOE created a 10-day early voting plan that included both local university campuses (NCCU and Duke), and the community college campus (Durham Tech). Our 10-day plan also exceeded the number of hours of early voting available during prior presidential election years.

After the North Carolina voting laws were overturned by the courts, the BOE was directed to craft a 17-day early voting plan in a very short period of time. The BOE again solicited community input. During this meeting, no one, including students present from NCCU, requested that the campus be included in the additional seven days of early voting. Had such a request been made it would have been considered by the board.

Ultimately, the BOE balanced staff resources, the availability of locations and other logistical issues, and community input in creating the new 17-day plan. It was determined that during the first five days the public libraries and the BOE office would be used for early voting. Thereafter, the remaining locations identified in the original 17 day plan will be opened. The only exception to the use of public buildings for the first five days was the decision to use a Unitarian Church on Garrett Road in lieu of the library on Shannon Road, because the church was available and located in the same general area, and the parking at that particular library is not adequate

The 17-day plan was adopted unanimously by the BOE, the make-up of which is bipartisan, multi-ethnic and multi-gender. The adopted plan substantially increases the opportunity to vote early over prior plans. Specifically, in the 2012 presidential election, there were seven early-voting sites which operated for a total of 977.5 hours. However, this year there will be 13 early voting sites which will operate for 1,541 hours.

In short, there will be six additional sites and 563.5 more hours in which to vote early this year – a 54.5 percent increase over 2012, when the early voting period also was 17 days long.

Accordingly, nothing has been taken away from anyone by the adopted early voting plan. To the contrary, much has been given to the community that it never has had before. To suggest otherwise simply is not accurate.

The Durham County BOE is proud to have adopted the most progressive voting plan in the state, and it firmly believes that this plan is best for the entire community. The BOE strongly encourages Durham County citizens to take advantage of the early voting plan in order to avoid long lines and confusion on Election Day.