The early voting schedule for Chatham County’s November general election — set now to begin Oct. 20 — won’t be finalized until approved by the state’s elections board.
The reason: the county’s five-member board couldn’t unanimously agree on whether to include Sundays in the early-voting schedule.
The three Democrats on Chatham’s board — Laura Heise, Mark Barroso and Amy Meek — voted to include Sundays among the 17-day voting period; the two Republican members, Frank Dunphy II and Charles Ramos, were opposed, according to Chatham County Elections Director Pandora Paschal.
“Each board of elections gets to determine what their hours are and how many sites they’ll have, and how many days they don’t have voting,” Paschal said. “In Chatham County, we know that our voters utilize early voting — it’s popular, so we always have a big turnout.”
Paschal said since the majority voted for Sunday voting, the tentative schedule is set but has to be approved by the state.
“The state board will take these plans, and they talk to the board members to ask them why they voted the way they did,” Paschal said. “Then, they’ll determine what the plan will be.”
North Carolina election laws allow for each county’s boards of elections to establish hours and days the polls can be open each election cycle. This includes adding Sunday hours to the voting locations, which was first implemented in Chatham County in 2020.
Poll sites were open from noon to 3 p.m. those days, and Paschal said some parts of Chatham County experienced a higher turnout on those Sundays.
“Chatham County didn’t really see the need to have Sunday voting prior to 2020 when we had COVID,” Paschal said. “We thought it would be a great time to take a measurement of it just to see how many people will come out this year.”
If the state board decides to follow the majority plan — which is what past trends suggest, according to Paschal — all six one-stop polling locations would be open from noon to 3 p.m. on two Sundays during the early voting period.
Paschal said state board approval isn’t a concern; rather, it’s a formality many counties’ board of elections have to go through to ensure the election is secure and transparent.
“We haven’t done it had to do it much, but Sunday voting is what drove this,” she said. “We’re trying to get a good measurement of if it’s something that we will continue … there are some people that may be making it into the polls, but we thought we can’t give a solid answer if we don’t do it.”
Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @HeedenTaylor.
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