[Image via NCSBE]
Earlier this week I wrote about the potential impacts of Hurricane Dorian on elections next Tuesday in North Carolina. Now, the state board of elections has launched a website intended to assist voters with early voting schedule changes and closures associated with the storm. Here’s the press release:
The State Board of Elections on Wednesday launched a website to keep voters informed about the effects of Hurricane Dorian on ongoing elections in the 3rd Congressional District, the 9th Congressional District and the city of Charlotte.
The site, www.ncsbe.gov/VotingandDisasters, includes county-by-county information on closings of one-stop early voting sites and county boards of elections offices, along with additional information for voters.
Many counties with elections on Tuesday (September 10) have announced that their early voting sites will be closed for parts of this week because of anticipated effects from Hurricane Dorian.
As a result, the State Board has received requests from county boards of elections and the North Carolina Democratic Party to extend the in-person early voting schedule into this weekend to offset the lost early voting hours.
Under state law, the State Board executive director may exercise emergency powers to alter an election schedule where the normal schedule for an election has been disrupted by a natural disaster, extremely inclement weather or armed conflict. Remedial measures must be calculated to offset the nature and scope of any disruption to voting, and the executive director must consider many factors, including the effects on election contests, the geographic scope and duration of the disruption, the displacement of voters or election workers and access to secure voting locations.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell had not exercised her emergency powers. State Board staff are monitoring the weather forecast and are in close contact with state emergency management officials and county boards of elections. Any decisions about changes to the election schedule or processes will be communicated to voters as quickly as possible through press releases, the State Board website and social media.
Brinson Bell issued the following statement:
“We want every eligible voter to be able to cast a ballot in the September 10 elections. With the oncoming storm, the safety of elections officials, poll workers and voters is of utmost concern.
We are monitoring the weather closely and communicating with county boards of elections. I will consider remedies to the loss of early voting hours and other interruptions in the coming days, based on the conditions on the ground, the availability of polling places and workers and other factors.
We want to ensure that we do not take any action that would further compound the situation.”
This is obviously a developing situation – both the hurricane and the state’s response – but the new “voting and disasters” website is a novel and promising method for keeping voters aware of their options as both Election Day and a severe weather event approach. Here’s hoping everyone stays safe – stay tuned …