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Voters agree: Sunday voting convenient

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By Reggie Ponder and Julian Eure
Staff Writers

Monday, September 9, 2019

Democrats and Republicans may not agree on much anymore. But there could be one thing that brings them together: Sunday voting.

Voters in six area counties got a rare chance to vote on a Sunday this weekend, casting early ballots at their local board of elections office for Tuesday’s special election in the 3rd Congressional District.

The State Board of Elections approved Saturday voting in 11 of the 3rd District’s 17 counties, and Sunday voting in the other six after all election offices in the district were forced to close at least some portion of Thursday and all of Friday as Hurricane Dorian neared and then passed over the state.

Five of the six counties approved for Sunday voting were given three extra hours — from noon to 3 p.m. — to accommodate voters. The other county, Dare, was allowed an additional eight hours — from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — of early voting.

While not every county’s voters took full advantage of the extra hours — Currituck reported 50 and Camden reported 27 — Pasquotank and Perquimans reported 210 and 89 voters, respectively.

Both Republicans and Democrats outside the Pasquotank Board of Elections office said they liked being allowed to vote on a Sunday, and indicated they’d like to see it permitted for future elections.

“This kind of turnout screams for that,” Republican activist John Woodard said as he campaigned for Republican Greg Murphy, one of four candidates on the ballot in Tuesday’s special election in the 3rd Congressional District.

Woodard said voters he had talked with seemed to like the convenience of Sunday voting, and he thought it would be a good tool for increasing voter participation. He also thought Sunday’s turnout might have been the best of any single day in Pasquotank during the early voting period.

Likewise, Jackie Latson, who was outside the elections office campaigning for Democrat Allen Thomas, also was excited about Sunday voting, describing the day’s turnout as “fantasmagorical” — an apparent mashup of the words “fantastic” and “magical.”

Latson said that Sunday voting is popular in other states where there are active “Souls to the Polls” programs.

“People go to church first and then everybody goes to vote at one time,” she said. “You may have 100 or 200 people going (to the polls) at one time.”

That’s more or less what happened on Sunday in Elizabeth City, Latson said. Thomas, who apparently was crisscrossing the 3rd District on Sunday, visited three churches here on Sunday: The Mount at 10:30 a.m.; Mt. Lebanon AME Zion at 11:30 a.m.; and then Latson’s church, Cornerstone Missionary Baptist, at 12:30 p.m.

Latson said attending the churches allowed Thomas to alert large numbers of people that Sunday voting was being permitted for Tuesday’s election. Standing outside the board of elections office, Latson said she had met eight people from her own church on their way to vote.

A number of voters also said they liked the convenience of Sunday voting.

Annette Roberts, who lives on Okisko Road, said she enjoyed being able to cast her vote after attending church. Roberts, who said she voted for Murphy — she described him as “the right person for the position — said she could support Sunday voting in the future “as long as it’s after church hours.”

Harry Umphlett said he also voted for Murphy, believing the Republican “best represents eastern North Carolina’s values.” Umphlett also expressed support for Sunday voting, calling a “a good idea.”

Several other voters said they liked the convenience of Sunday voting.

“We work in Virginia, so it can be harder to vote on a work day,” one voter said.

Another said she works at a hospital, and has to be there early, so finding the time to vote on a workday can be difficult.

Michele Aydlett, secretary of the Pasquotank Board of Elections, said elections officials were also happy with Sunday’s turnout.

“We always love it when people want to come out and vote,” she said.

Adding Sunday’s turnout of 210, Pasquotank’s total number of early votes cast for Tuesday’s election is now 1,715, Aydlett said.

She said a number of those who showed up to vote early also asked about getting a voter ID. Although voters aren’t required to show a voter ID for Tuesday’s election, they will for elections starting in 2020.

“We had a lot of people come in who said, ‘I might as well get my voter ID while I’m here to vote,”’ Aydlett said.

She estimated about 30 people a day were issued a voter ID at the Pasquotank elections office during the early voting period. The IDs, which are processed on demand at the elections office, are free and good for 10 years, Aydlett said.

The Perquimans Board of Elections also reported significant turnout on Sunday. Eighty-nine voters cast early ballots, bringing the one-stop total in the county to 739.

Tim Corprew said he had planned to vote late week but was unable to because of the storm. He said he came in Sunday to “avoid the rush” and get his ballot cast before election day.

“The hurricane came and we were picking corn,” Corprew said. “Voting is important but getting my crop in is important, too. I’ve got to live.”

Corprew said he voted for Murphy.

“I just think he’s a better candidate,” he said. “Allen Thomas has never really had a real job. He has had a lot of political appointee jobs, but as far as a real job I’m not sure that he’s ever had one.”

Tammy Miller-White, who chairs the Perquimans County Democratic Party, stopped by Sunday afternoon to see how voting was going. She said she feels like Democratic voter turnout has been pretty good in the county.

“But we won’t know until we see the numbers,” she added.

Miller-White said she was glad the Sunday session of early voting was being held.

Hazel Eure said she likes voting during one-stop and appreciated the opportunity to vote Sunday afternoon. Eure said there was no particular issue she was particularly concerned about but she had made up her mind how she was going to vote before she arrived at the polling place Sunday.

“I read up on all of them,” she said.

Eure declined to say which candidate she voted for.

Devin Wilder said she is a registered Democrat but declined to say which candidate she voted for. She said issues important to her in Tuesday’s election are education, jobs and the economic interests of northeastern North Carolina.

Wilder said she appreciated the opportunity to vote Sunday afternoon.

“Sunday and Saturday — having these opportunities available makes it easier for people that work,” Wilder said. “I have been voting early a lot more often (in recent elections). It’s usually more convenient that the general voting time.”

K.W. Rose said the Sunday afternoon voting was convenient. But sometimes he’ll vote on election day as well.

“It’s a hit or miss,” Rose said. “We try to avoid the lines, but we vote.”

Rose said he voted for Murphy. He said there was no one issue that he was particularly concerned about in the election.

“We vote conservative,” Rose said. “It’s a number of issues and policies – really not one in particular.”

Elmer Rumble said he usually votes early and appreciated the opportunity to vote Sunday afternoon. Rumble declined to say which candidate he cast his ballot for.

In Camden, Elections Director Elaine Best said the 27 voters who cast ballots on Sunday brought the county’s total number of early voters to 364. She said several of those who voted on Sunday said they had heard in church about the early voting period being reopened.

She said Sunday’s turnout might not have been Camden’s largest during the one-stop period. She noted that as voters realized that one-stop voting might be curtailed because of the approaching storm, more starting coming in. About 38 came in one day before the storm, she said.

In Currituck, elections official Rachel Raper said the 50 voters who cast ballots on Sunday brought the county’s one-stop total to 539. Raper said she hadn’t heard any voters comment about Sunday voting.

“I think people were just happy for the opportunity to vote (today) because the office had to be closed for the hurricane,” she said.

Raper, who is elections director in Orange County, said she was deployed by the State Board of Elections to Currituck to assist with early voting after Hurricane Dorian passed.

Chowan was the only area county not to hold Sunday voting. Its voters were able to vote on Saturday. According to officials, 35 voters cast ballots on Saturday, bringing the county’s total one-stop number to 872.

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