We were fortunate to have a Politica at the NC State Board of Elections meeting yesterday. Read this summary of events to get a first-hand account of what happened and conjecture as to why it happened.

Yay! You have probably heard already that the NC State BOE approved (Wake County Board of Elections member) Mark Ezzell’s plan to add seven more sites during the first seven mandated days of Early Voting (EV) in Wake County! To be clear, these seven sites are a subset of the 22 that will already be open for the ten days before election weekend; now these seven will be operational seven days earlier.

The Wake BOE majority had voted 2-1 along party lines to have ONLY the BOE office downtown open for that first week. Aided by Elections Director Gary Simms’s testimony (which the board had to drag out of him) that it would be impossible to process at least 71,000 voters who historically vote during the first week of early voting solely at the downtown BOE office, the board felt that the majority’s plan would be a “train wreck.” So in one of the rare instances of the day, the Board voted 3-2, with one crossover voter, to approve the minority proposal.

I observed that the board responded the most to arguments about the need to avoid overcrowding, lines, and turning voters away. Earlier in the day, the board seemed to rubber stamp majority plans more readily, but of course the board saved the bigger counties until last. But as the day went on, BOE board member Baker, a Republican former judge, seemed to become more alert to the logistical problems that will undoubtedly arise if the Republicans plans are approved. As the Wake counsel pointed out, if you have insufficient first week EV, that will bring longer lines the second week, which will also lead to crowding during Election Day voting.

I had not realized that now most precincts in Raleigh cover 3,000-4,000 voters and above so EV is crucial to the smooth functioning of elections in Wake. Wake has only added 4 precincts since 2009, but has added tens of thousands of residents. While this may seem like an arcane debate to some, it is important to get this right so that we are not dealing with Miami-Dade or Maricopa County Arizona type voting delays.

Siobhan Millen

We thank Siobhan for sharing this fascinating account of her experience with us.