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State Board of Elections addresses voting contingencies after Hurricane Matthew

I_Voted_StickerMany North Carolina counties are still recovering in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, but voting must go on. In a memo Wednesday to County Boards of Elections, the State Board instructs officials to process voter registration through next week regardless of the postmark, as long as the voter’s application is dated by the Friday deadline.

With respect to applications you receive by mail, the U.S. Postal Service has informed our agency that certain of their offices are temporarily closed, resulting in interrupted pick-up and delivery in those areas. Among other temporary changes, USPS has rerouted certain mail for processing, which may result in a delay in postmarking. In response to known delays with the mail, county boards are hereby instructed to accept and process for the 2016 general election all voter registration forms that are:

  • Delivered by mail or commercial carrier
  • Received on or before 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19
  • Dated by the voter on or before Oct. 14

Election offices will only accept voter registration forms delivered in person through 5 p.m. Friday.

The State Board of Elections anticipates certain voters will have difficulty accessing county elections offices and instructs directors to work with National Voter Registration Act partners within their respective counties to endure all applications are dropped off and promptly delivered and processed.

Certain counties are still assessing the full impact Hurricane Matthew may have on early voting sites and Election Day precincts. County boards should stay in contact with this office regarding any changes arising out of this emergency, and are instructed to provide such notice to voters, political parties, and the media as is practicable. We are proud of your vigilance in the face of this challenge.

Bob Hall, Executive Director of Democracy North Carolina, said in the context of North Carolina having same-day voter registration during its 17-day early voting period from Oct. 20 through Nov. 5, he thinks the SBE memo is fairly reasonable.

“They’re threading the needle between trying to be helpful without opening a can of worms,” he said.

With same-day registration, voters can fill out the form, show an identifying document and vote at an early voting site when it’s open. They cannot vote on Election day. In a press release, the SBE encouraged voters who miss the registration deadline to take advantage of same-day registration.

“Despite the devastating effects of the hurricane, we want all eligible North Carolinians to know the many options available to register and vote in this election,” said Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the SBE.

Identifying documents that will be accepted for same-day registration are:

  • NC driver’s license
  • Photo identification from a government agency
  • Student identification with a school document showing the student’s address
  • Utility bill, bank statement, payroll stub or document from any government agency with the voter’s name and current address

Hall called same-day registration a very valuable safety net. He also recommended County Boards take initiative when it comes to voting contingency plans in the wake of the hurricane.

Dave Miranda, spokesman for the North Carolina Democratic Party, said the organization always encourages making voting easier for residents. He also pointed to same-day registration as a good back-up plan for individuals in flood-ravaged counties.

The state’s GOP communications director did not return an email seeking comment.

Plans for extended early voting hours or announcements regarding a change in residents’ voting sites due to flooding have not yet been made, but will likely vary county by county, Hall said.

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