Voting for Congress muddled as early voting gets under way

By on March 2, 2016

 Voters in North Carolina can begin casting their ballots for the March 15 primary during the early voting period that begins on Thursday and runs through Saturday, March 12.

But their votes in one race may not count. Yet.

That’s because of litigation over the state’s Congressional districts that has led to a complete reworking of  boundaries and a possible delay of that primary to June 7.

Republican lawmakers in the N.C. General Assembly redrew the state’s boundaries last month as a safeguard to comply with a federal court ruling that called the 1st and 12th districts racial gerrymanders.

The new maps could mean no more split counties in northeastern North Carolina. All of Chowan, Perquimans, and Pasquotank would be in the 3rd district along with Dare, Currituck, Camden, Tyrrell and Hyde counties. All of Washington and Gates counties would in the 1st district.

The court has not ruled on whether they will accept the new maps, and the plantiffs in the case have filed legal briefs arguing that the new districts are simply a political gerrymander and the racial balance of the districts was never considered.

To add to the confusion, the primaries for the districts adopted in 2011 and now tied up in the courts were already printed on the ballots that will be used starting Thursday.

“Every N.C. voter should be confident their voice will be heard in all primary contests,” State Board of Elections Executive Director Kim Westbrook Strach.

“In each election, voters should mark their preference in all contests — including candidates for U.S. House appearing on ballots in March,” Starch said. “Vote the whole ballot and let us worry about what will count.”

More than 360 early voting sites across the state will host 25,300 hours of voting during the 10-day early voting period.

“Counties have worked hard to expand voting opportunities across our state,” said Starch.

Early voting, which has gained in popularity, accounted for more than 23% of all votes cast in the 2012 primary and a majority in the 2012 general election.

“We want voters to use the voting method that best fits their schedule,” said Strach.

This will be the first election in North Carolina that most voters will be required to show photo identification to cast a ballot, with some exceptions. Click here for more details.

Residents who are not registered to vote can still sign-up and vote during the one-stop early voting period.

The General Assembly tried to eliminate the same-day registration option, but a preliminary injunction granted under a decision by a federal appeals court has blocked that law from taking effect while it remains the subject of ongoing litigation.

Dare County voters can cast their ballots at the Board of Elections office in the county administration building from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays through Friday, March 11, and on Saturday, March 12 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Votes can also be cast on weekdays through March 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Baum Center in Kill Devil Hills, the Pitts Center in Southern Shores and the Fessenden Center in Buxton.

In Currituck County, the only site available to early vote is the Board of Elections office at the rear of the governmental complex off Caratoke Highway in Currituck.

Voters in Currituck can cast their ballots from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the Thursdays and Fridays, March 3, 4, 10 and 11, of the early voting period.

Early voting in Currituck will also be available on Saturdays March 5 and 12, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Monday through Wednesday, March 7 to 9, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.




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