Early Voting Proposal

Early Voting Proposals

Two early voting proposals are available. After reviewing plan A and plan B above, feel free to make public comments below. Your comments will not immediately be posted to the page. There will be a delay.


Early Voting Proposal Public Comments

July 7, 2020

Plan A

Lenora Adams-Tibbs Tibbs

July 7, 2020

I think it is very important to use proposal A for voting in Cabarrus County. All voices should be heard and voting must be encouraged with opportunities to vote expanded. Convenience and options for dates makes this more likely with very busy and complicated life styles.

Mary Ann Johnson

July 6, 2020

Please implement Early Voting Plan A so that as many people as possible are able to vote in the 2020 general election. It is important that all citizens have ample opportunity to cast their ballot.

Shelley McElroy Williams

July 6, 2020

I prefer plan A . Plan A works well for my schedule.

Crystal Z. Franklin

July 6, 2020

Plan A, more opportunities to vote.

Brian Floyd

July 6, 2020

It is my understanding that the Board of Elections is considering two options for early voting for our upcoming November election. One includes two Saturdays and a Sunday. I would suggest we adopt that option. There are many citizens who are unable to get to the polls during the week due to work commitments or lack of access. Additional weekend hours would give them more options to find additional ways to get there. At a time when these options have been very politicized in our country, it would be my hope that Cabarrus County would set the example of allowing more options, rather than less.

Barbi Jones

July 6, 2020

I would like to see proposals A go through. The more options and access to vote the better for our community to have an opportunity to exercise their right.

Connie Rheinecker

July 6, 2020

Proposal A is best.

Stephanie Fiedler

July 6, 2020

Plan A. Please add as many hours as possible.

Kathy Hoffman Taylor

July 6, 2020

It appears that Plan A would enable greater opportunities for in-person early voting, and this would be my preference. Also, I note that Cabarrus has only 4 early voting sites, very modest for a county of our size. For example, Union (slightly larger) routinely has 7 sites and Rowan (smaller) has 5. I believe that Cabarrus County could do better, especially during a year in which a pandemic will require social distancing and probably more time waiting to vote. Please consider.

Jeffrey L. Crook

July 6, 2020

Please consider implementing Proposal A. While I have the luxury of voting at almost anytime, I am certain many of my neighbors don't have that due to work and/or family commitments. By adding an additional Saturday and Sunday, this opens this precious opportunity to many who may not have it or traditional means to get to polls. We need to think of what's best for our whole community; not just those who have easy access.

Barbara Smith Jones

July 6, 2020

As I commented during today's conference call, I very strongly feel there there is currently no voter suppression in Cabarrus County. Any registered voter has ample opportunity to voter either in person or via absentee ballot. As noted by Mr. White, the real issue is voter participation in general. We have continually expanded in person voter opportunities in recent years, yet voter numbers are not growing - and in fact with each "open" day, we simply shift current voters from one day (or absentee ballot) to another.

Secondly, whomever commented that they have plenty of volunteers, I'm sure the BOE would appreciate having those folks participate as precinct/early voting officials, as in my experience (as I noted in my oral comment) it is a constant battle to get enough election officials, especially for weekend hours. 1 shift at one (early open) polling place would require a minimum of 6 individuals.

I fully endorse Plan B.

Mary Stewart (Missy) deSouza

July 6, 2020

While we cannot predict the future, I feel that we can be prepared without planning for total panic or total disrruption of our rights and duties. I feel that we have enough opportunities for everyone to vote within Plan B. Regardless of working or family situations there are enough hours and days contained within Plan B to make it possible for those who are willing to vote to do so.

Frank W Rush, Treasurer Cabarrus Republican Party

July 6, 2020

When reviewing the Proposed Early Voting Plan A for the 2020 General Election, I was struck by the numerous opportunities for voters to cast their vote during weekdays from early morning to mid-evening (12 days at 11.5 hours per day) and by the virtual lack of voting opportunity on Sunday (one day for 5 hours) on 10/25/20. Another way to view this is there are 23 hours of weekday openings for every one hour on a Sunday. Seems terribly out-of-balance for people who have to work and care for children during the week or those who have to rely on others to provide transportation to the polls.

One way to right this imbalance would be to trade one weekday opening (or possibly even two) for an added Sunday, say the Sunday before Election Day (11/3/20). Even if only open for the standard 5 hours on this additional Sunday, instead of a 23:1 weekday to Sunday ratio, it would lessen to 13:1, a sizeable improvement for working people (especially those with children) and our impaired mobility citizens.

Dorsey Ward, Precinct 12-05

July 2, 2020

I spoke at the prior meeting for our primary election in favor of Sunday voting for our early voting plan. It wasn’t implemented. My husband Bob has asked to speak this time and so I am writing to you. It is my determination that we provide an opportunity for all of our citizens to vote on a Sunday during early voting. This will bring us into alignment with our peer counties across the state and enable our citizens with the fullest opportunity to participate. Please acknowledge this request and implement it.

Carol Anderson

July 1, 2020

Clearly plan A is preferred. During the COVID crisis it would be helpful if some statistics about the traffic through the sites by day and hour in past elections would help keep it easier to maintain social distancing.

Anonymous

June 30, 2020

I want to note the difficulty in having early voting days limited to workdays. There is significant evidence that weekday voting is particularly challenging for single parents, students and citizens who work multiple jobs.

I understand that there is some objection to holding early voting on Sunday as it is a religious day. This is not the case for all citizens in this country. Those of Jewish faith mark the Sabbath from Friday evenings at sundown until Saturday at sundown. Assuming that Sunday is a religious day for all citizens and should therefore be excluded as a possible day for early voting suggests a lack of awareness about the actual religious diversity of this county which is troubling.

Rabbi Barbara Thiede, Temple Or Olam

June 26, 2020

I like proposal A the best because of weekend availability and the hours.

Anonymous

June 24, 2020

As the November elections draw closer, it has become abundantly clear the necessity to offer more available times for members of our community to vote.

With the number of COVID-19 cases continuously rising and more essential workers being diagnosed, providing every citizen of Cabarrus County the opportunity and time to vote, should be the Board of Elections Primary focus.

As we do not currently know where we will be in November, being able to plan and prepare for every citizen of Cabarrus County to vote in a timely manner without long wait times while providing space for social distancing is essential for our local government and election processes.

We are advocating for the following for every citizen of Cabarrus County:

  1. Three Saturday dates for early voting at all primary early voting locations within each municipality
  2. One to Two Sunday afternoon dates with times from 12 – 5p for early voting at all primary early voting locations within each municipality


We will continue to advocate for these to ensure every citizen of Cabarrus County has the opportunity and time to vote.

Black Political Caucus of Cabarrus County

June 18, 2020

We write to you today to provide you with information that we believe will assist you in developing an early voting plan that best serves the constituents of your county. We recognize that the challenge that faces you and your staff - conducting a safe and fully participatory election during a global pandemic - is one of the greatest magnitude, and we want to help you confront that challenge with as many resources and as much support as possible.

Executive Summary

As discussed in more detail below, based on voting and demographic data specific to Cabarrus County and in anticipation of the challenges introduced by the ongoing public health crisis, we recommend for the upcoming general election that the Board (i) maintain at minimum 4 early voting sites as it did in 2016 and as noted in the Cabarrus County Board of Election’s proposed early voting plan created by Chair Ericson, (ii) ensure that early voting sites at least include the Cabarrus County Board of Elections Office and Concord Fire Station #9 as noted in the proposed plan, and (iii) keep the extra Saturday and Sunday of voting in Chair Ericson’s proposed plan, or add further weekend voting days.

Over the coming months, our team of advocates will work with civic engagement organizations, faith groups, and community leaders to solicit feedback on early voting sites. These individuals will attend Board of Election meetings, provide public comment, and may reach out to you with questions and requests. We will also incorporate this information into future early Voting plan recommendations.

The COVID-19 Pandemic and Potential Changes to State Law

All North Carolinians - voters and election administrators alike - are facing unprecedented circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The North Carolina State Board of Elections has predicted that absentee-bymail voting in this year’s general election could hit 40%, up from only 4% in 2016. Assuming that number is accurate for planning purposes, that means that a majority of voters will still vote in-person. However, unlike in previous years, election officials and poll workers now have social distancing and disinfectant procedures to take into account when conducting early in-person voting. This means that, even if in-person voting during the early voting period will be lower than in 2016, offering more sites and days is more critical than ever to keep in-person voting safe and prevent voters who are socially distancing from turning away from the polls due to long lines and crowding. For public health reasons, counties should be seeking to have enough sites and days for in-person voting to keep the rate of voters (voters per hour per site) low so that voters can maintain distance while waiting to vote and to ensure that poll workers have time to employ proper disinfecting procedures between voters. This will not be possible if there are too many voters seeking to use an early voting site at one time.

Additionally, we urge you to at least make contingency plans for an early voting period unencumbered by current state law, which is under challenge. Democracy North Carolina (“DemNC”) is a plaintiff (represented by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (“SCSJ”) among others) challenging certain aspects of the current statutory election scheme as creating an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote in light of the current public health crisis. The part of that lawsuit most relevant here is our challenge to the uniform hours requirement, created by Senate Bill 325 in 2018 and in effect in the 2018 general election and 2020 primary elections (in addition to intervening municipal elections). We are seeking to have this law (and others) enjoined for the 2020 general election to allow county boards the flexibility to offer more sites when more voters are expected to turn out to vote (and thus reduce lines and wait times and increase the efficacy of public health measures) and not waste
precious county resources keeping early voting sites open at hours it is known that voters will not utilize.

We understand that the imposition of the uniform hours requirement has made it more difficult for county boards, including yours, to craft an early voting plan that best serves the geographic and demographic needs of your county, and that maintaining sites when all sites have to be open the same days and hours can have a significant budgetary impact on your county. The number of early voting sites in Cabarrus County, in 2014 and 2018 remained the same with 4 early voting sites. In the litigation described above, our goal is to avoid any reduction due to the uniform hours requirement.

That being said, even with those unnecessary restrictions, we believe that it still remains your duty to ensure that all voters in your county have easy access to one-stop early voting sites and times, regardless of the outcome of the litigation. We recognize that by having to keep every site open a certain number of hours each day during the weekdays, and having to have all sites open if any site is open on the weekend, could create some financial challenges for the county, but the cost of a fair and accessible democracy can never be too high.

We understand that for many counties, one of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic has been budget concerns and potential shortfalls. Without dismissing the challenge that presents you as an election board, we urge you to remember that access to the franchise is both the central service offered by counties and mandated by state and federal law. If counties do not conduct an election that allows full and safe participation, accountability and oversight on other budgetary decisions will be impeded. We know that the county boards of elections do not set budgets, but your county commission is obligated to fully fund your efforts to conduct an election compliant with all federal and state constitutional and statutory demands. See N.C.G.S. § 163-37 (requiring county commission to “appropriate reasonable and adequate funds necessary for the legal functions of the county board of elections, including reasonable and just compensation of the director of elections”); see also, NC SBOE Numbered Memorandum 2016-06; Graham County Board of Elections v. Graham County Board of Commissioners, 212 N.C. App. 313, 712 S.E.2d 372 (N.C. App. June 7, 2011) (holding that the grant of authority to the county commission on budget issues is limited by more specific statutory delegations of authority to the county board of elections). If the county commission provides inadequate funding, they are in violation of state law and can be forced to make the necessary appropriations. And, while the county board of elections can go back to the county commission with further evidence of financial shortfalls in conducting elections and request further appropriations, see N.C.G.S. § 159-15, the burden of doing so while conducting an election during a pandemic is significant. To the extent the Board of Elections is predicting near-certain costs now, the County Commission should make appropriations to address those needs rather than burden the Board of Elections later.

The proposed FY 2021 budget contains an almost 23% decrease in funding for the Cabarrus County Board of Elections (“Board”). The Board had a budget of $1,397,783 in FY 2020, and now the proposed budget is $1,084,213.1 Given the fact that epidemiologists are predicting that there will be a second outbreak of COVID-19 in the fall, steps must be taken now to avoid the shortages in polling place supplies and adequate printing costs—otherwise, the County could be responsible for the massive disenfranchisement of many potential voters. As stated above, Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell is already predicting a 10-fold increase in the number of absentee voters this year, so there is going to be a dire need for printed absentee request forms and ballots this year. The Board and Cabarrus County Commissioners must be careful to ensure that voters will be able to adequately vote by mail and in-person and the County Commissioners must provide the necessary and adequate resources to ensure that this occurs. Additionally, pending passage of the county budget, Cabarrus County will be updating its voting machines. It will be important that there are funds in the budget to troubleshoot any issues with the machines and also funds to ensure that there will be adequate training for poll workers as to how to use these machines, such that Cabarrus County does not run into issues with the new machines like counties in Georgia recently did.

We strongly urge that, notwithstanding the additional cost, the county treat the 4 sites offered during the 2016 election as the baseline number of sites that should be offered this election, as currently proposed in the Chair Ericson’s early voting plan. We recognize that this may require going back to the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners to readdress the budget for this election: please keep in mind that we believe the North Carolina State Board of Elections has the authority to force you to offer additional voting sites and hours if there is no unanimous plan and the plans under consideration by the county board offer too few voting opportunities in ways that may, for instance, disproportionately disadvantage voters of color. The more prudent course of action is to plan on offering a fulsome early voting plan now, and not be forced to scramble last minute to cover costs if the State Board requires you to offer more hours or sites.

However, we do recognize that budgetary concerns may still come into play. With that in mind, we think there are several priorities this Board should embrace in the reconsideration of an early voting plan for the November 2020 election, particularly as public health, financial and litigation situations become more clear.

1. Prioritizing Highly Used Sites with Near High Concentrations of Voters

It will be very important that this Board is completely funded such that it may offer voters the same four early voting sites that were offered in 2016. We ask that this Board take efforts to secure as much funding as possible to continue operating as many early voting sites as possible. Additionally, we request that the Board undertake both a data-driven and community-informed process in deciding which sites to open or to remain open if necessary. Attached, in Exhibit A, is a chart that details the sites utilized in the 2016 general election, and in Exhibit B, a chart that details the early voting sites in 2018. While of course some sites available in 2016 or other previous elections may no longer be available, either due to COVID-19 or other extenuating circumstances, the popularity of certain sites is still informative.

Based on sheer usage alone in 2016, it is clear that the Board must certainly continue to offer the Cabarrus County Board of Elections Office and the Concord Fire Station #9, as early voting sites which are included in Chair Ericson’s proposed early voting plan. But the usage numbers ought to be further informed by community perspectives and it is important that Cabarrus County can keep its 4 early sites to the extent possible.

Finally, looking at the attached geographic dispersal of the Cabarrus County early voting sites in 2016 (Exhibit C) and 2018 (Exhibit D), when compared to the precincts with the highest number of voters in 2016 (Exhibit E) and 2018 (Exhibit F), Cabarrus Black Voters by Precinct in 2016 (Exhibit G) and 2018 (Exhibit H) and Cabarrus LatinX Voters by Precinct in 2016 (Exhibit I), and 2018 (Exhibit J), it is important to have the early voting sites located in the same general areas in which they were located in 2016. Having the early voting sites in the same general areas as 2016 will help to allow as many voters as possible to cast their ballot.

Prioritizing Days that Cabarrus County Voters Have Shown to Prefer and that Have Black Voter Usage

Secondly, we also strongly recommend that you prioritize offering fulsome voting hours on days that are both highly utilized by voters in the county overall and that Black voters disproportionately use. This does two things: (1) ensures that the county is not wasting money and is operating early voting sites in a manner likely to reduce lines and wait times on Election Day, and (2) minimizes any burden on Black voters that might give rise to claims under the Voting Rights Act.

It is important to note that the more early voting sites there are, the less time people have to stand in line potentially exposing themselves to COVID-19. Additionally, below is a table noting the percentage of Black voters during each day of early voting during the 2016 election. This data shows that Black voters consistently voted during each day of early voting. Thus, keeping as many early voting sites open as possible is of paramount importance. Further, adding one Sunday of early voting and a second Saturday of early voting (as noted in Chair Ericson’s early voting plan), is a good start in allowing more voters to cast ballots, specifically highlighting the high percentage of Black voter turnout on the last Saturday of early voting. It is important to keep these added dates and to add more if possible.

If you have any questions as you consider early voting plans (for the first time or revising them in light of litigation), or should you be unable to agree on a unanimous plan, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. Our goal is to ensure that the one-stop early voting plan adopted by or ordered into effect for Cabarrus County is one that ensures that voters are able to safely access their fundamental right to vote notwithstanding the current public health crisis.

Allison Riggs, Interim Executive Director & Chief Counsel, Voting Rights, Southern Coalition for Social Justice
Jeff Loperfido, Senior Counsel, Voting Rights, Southern Coalition for Social Justice
Mitchell Brown, Counsel, Voting Rights, Southern Coalition for Social Justice
Alissa Ellis, Advocacy Director, Democracy North Carolina

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