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Elections board extends early voting but not to Sunday

The Henderson County Board of Elections extended early voting hours in response to a federal court ruling that struck down changes in the state’s elections laws — brushing aside a recommendation from the state Republican Party to limit that option along a “party line” vote.

At a meeting on Aug. 16, the board, made up of two Republicans and one Democrat, voted unanimously to increase the one-stop voting period from a week and a half to 2½ weeks. It also voted to close the lightly used early voting site in Edneyville and turned down a request from the local NAACP chapter to add Sunday hours.
“We actually added 20 more hours,” said Elections Director Beverly Cunningham. Although it closed the Edneyville Community Center site, the board doubled the number of machines at elections headquarters at 75 E. Central St. off Spartanburg Highway.
“We’ve never had Sunday hours and we’ve had trouble getting voters on Saturday afternoon,” Cunningham said.
Melinda Lowrance, president of Henderson County chapter of the NAACP, said she was disappointed the board turned down a request to try Sunday voting.
“They said they never had it in Hendersonville but there’s always a first time to start something,” said Melinda Lowrance, president of Henderson County chapter of the NAACP. “That was one of our main concerns, the Sunday voting.”
Chris Berg, an NAACP member who attended, said the board also rejected another suggestion.
“One of the things I requested was along with starting to think about Sunday voting was having some of the early voting hours shifted to 11 (a.m.) to 8 (p.m.) so people who had work hours could go and vote but they decided not to do that.”
“They did add some hours over their previous plan,” he said. “They did drop Edneyville but I guess that’s more of a concern for the field workers out there. I don’t know how many of them are registered to vote. In ‘14 election they had only 800 voters” during one-stop voting at Edneyville.
On its website, the county Board of Elections advises voters that, at this time, the state won’t require a photo ID for the Nov. 8 election.
“On July 29, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit struck down photo ID requirements and associated laws in North Carolina,” the board said. “The state is considering its options. Barring a different outcome on appeal, photo ID will not be required in the upcoming general election.”
Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, last month urged Republican members of county elections board to “make party line changes to early voting” by limiting the number of hours and opting not to open polls on Sundays. The Raleigh News & Observer reported that 23 counties had reduced the number of hours from 2012 and 70 had expanded the hours for early voting.

The Henderson County Board of Elections, chaired by longtime Republican activist Bob Heltman, extended the central office early period back to 17 days as required by the federal court ruling. One-stop voting will be available at Etowah, Flat Rock and Fletcher for 12 days.
“We feel like we’re doing the best we can for the citizens of Henderson County and I think all three board members would say that,” Cunningham said. “Our board’s been very good to work together. Decisions are made for all of Henderson County and not in any partisan manner.”
One-stop voting hours at the Henderson County Board of Elections office:
• Oct. 20-21: 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
• Oct. 24-28: 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
• Saturday, Oct. 29: 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
• Oct. 21-Nov. 4: 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
• Saturday: Nov. 5: 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
One-stop voting hours at Etowah Library, Flat Rock Village Hall and Fletcher Library:
• Oct. 24-28: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
• Saturday, Oct. 29: 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
• Oct. 31-Nov. 4: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
• Saturday, Nov. 5: 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m.