The Forsyth County Elections Board will meet Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to seek consensus on an early voting plan for November. If its members can’t meet that goal, the decision will go to the state Board of Elections. We realize there are differing opinions, not to mention inherent problems in the state legislature-designed system, but we urge the members of the board, for the good of our county, to get it together and agree on one of the more generous proposals that would provide the most opportunities for voters. That should be the primary objective.
The four-member board — two Democrats and two Republicans — couldn’t reach a consensus on a plan for early voting last week, the Journal’s Wesley Young reported. The variables include voting sites and the hours for early voting.
As the Journal reported:
“Susan Campbell, the Democratic chair of the local elections board, proposed an 11-site plan. Robert Durrah Jr., another Democrat on the board, said he would like to go to as many as 12 early voting sites.
“Stewart Russell, a Republican who is vice chair of the board, suggested 10 sites. Later in the meeting, Campbell offered 10 sites if the Republicans would agree to have early voting on all three Saturdays during the early-voting period.
“Russell said he needed to think about it.”
And that’s where we are.
State legislation passed earlier this year requires unanimity among election-board members rather than a majority vote. It also requires all 100 county election boards to be composed of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans.
These laws are a recipe for gridlock and stalemate, and they guarantee that a great many decisions will wind up in Raleigh — or in court.
The Republicans on the Forsyth board expressed concerns about the costs of running early voting, as well as the possibility of too many sites and hours of operation stressing elections staff.
After the meeting, Tim Tsujii, the director of elections in Forsyth County, told the Journal that his staff can handle anything the board decides:
“With the last presidential election, we had 17 sites with all of them open the last week,” Tsujii said. “There are challenges, but it is nothing they can’t overcome.”
Some members of the audience who spoke at last week’s meeting advocated a return of early voting to Winston-Salem State University, the Journal reported.
In 2014, the Republican-led Watauga County elections board took away the early voting site on the Appalachian State University campus. This year, the Wake County elections board broke on having an early voting location at N.C. State, the News & Observer of Raleigh reported last week. Their early voting plan will now be determined by the state board. Do we sense a theme?
There’s a common narrative that reducing opportunities to vote benefits Republicans while increasing opportunities to vote benefits Democrats. That’s part of the reason the Republican-led state legislature tried to institute a voter ID requirement in 2013 that a federal appeals court concluded targeted “African Americans with almost surgical precision.” And it’s part of the reason Democrats prefer to have as many early voting sites and hours as possible.
The actions the legislature has taken to make voting more difficult is one of the reasons many people hate politics. Our legislature should be providing more opportunities to vote, not fewer.
We appeal to our local elections board: Don’t play political games like the state legislature. Trust the voters. Let’s show the rest of the state how it should be done.