RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – More people in North Carolina will have the option to vote on Sundays when the early voting period begins next month. That was decided by the North Carolina State Board of Elections which approved the plans for various counties on Tuesday.
The board chose plans in 13 counties where the local election officials were unable to reach a unanimous agreement on dates, times and locations for early voting, which runs from Oct. 20 to Nov. 5.
In most of those counties, the primary disagreement was whether to have voting on Sundays.
Where it was an option, the board approved plans in those counties that include at least one Sunday. The board split along party lines, with the Democratic majority backing Sunday voting.
“This is not about politics. This is about giving everybody the opportunity to vote,” said Jeff Carmon, a Democratic member of the NC State Board of Elections. “In rural areas, we need as many hours as possible. And, I can’t imagine why in 2022 we still have a debate over Sunday voting.”
Stacy Eggers IV, a Republican member of the state board, raised concerns about staffing.
“This has always been a point of division, I believe, on both the county level and the state level. But, in my view, and having been a county board member, the staff does indeed need a day of rest and a day off related to this,” he said.
The counties where the state board approved early voting plans Tuesday include: Bladen, Brunswick, Chatham, Cumberland, Davidson, Lenoir, Lincoln, Martin, Nash, Pasquotank, Robeson, Surry and Union.
The North Carolina Black Alliance, which includes pastors who were instrumental in organizing the Souls to the Polls initiative, urged the board to approve Sunday voting in as many places as possible.
“We’re in the Bible belt. Sunday is the perfect time for any resident, particularly those of faith, to go in and cast their ballot,” said Marcus Bass, deputy director of the alliance. “Souls to the polls has been a critical piece in North Carolina to ensuring that communities of faith, particularly in this manner in North Carolina, are able to go vote and vote safely.”
Andy Jackson, who studies elections at the conservative John Locke Foundation, said during the 2020 general election, Black voters went to the polls on the first Sunday in disproportionately higher numbers than during other days of early voting.
He pointed out in some counties, such as Lincoln and Davidson, the board’s decision will lead to an expansion of voting times for residents, as those counties never have had Sunday voting in the past.
Jackson said as the counties are responsible for paying for the election, some are trying to keep costs down.
“There are limited amount[s] of manpower and money that each of these county boards, because all of this has to be paid for by the county boards of elections, and so they have to make plans that will get maximum utility out of the resources they have,” Jackson said. “Just like everything else, for schools or parks and recreation, you’ve got to make plans to kind of get the most bang for your buck.”
Claude Cooke, a Republican member of the Pasquotank County Board of Elections, opposed including Sunday voting in his county.
“On Sunday, it was accepted and became kind of tradition that that was God’s day,” he told the state board Tuesday. “We, as a society and a culture, are getting more and more removed from our spirituality.”
More information on voting early in North Carolina, including dates, times and locations in your area are available on the NCSBOE website.