Eyes on North Carolina as GOP-led board settles voting rules


September 8, 2016 8:30PM (UTC)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina's Board of Elections worked county by county Thursday to approve early-voting plans that were redrawn after a federal court voided much of the state's election law as discriminatory toward African-Americans.

The board's three Republicans and two Democrats debated before a standing-room-only audience that was watching carefully as they settled disputes in 33 of the state's 100 counties where local boards failed to present unanimous plans.

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Generally, the state board was favoring the local majorities' proposals for the dates, hours and sites where in-person early voting will now cover 17 days before the November election, to comply with the federal court.

Whether to allow Sunday voting has been a contentious question, which the court left to the state's discretion. African-American churches have traditionally driven members to vote in "souls to the polls" efforts on Sundays, benefiting Democratic candidates more than Republicans.

In two key counties — Rockingham, north of Greensboro; and Gaston, west of Charlotte — the GOP-led board approved Republican plans that keep early-voting sites closed on Sundays.

In Craven County, near the coast, however, the board's three Republicans made a concession, agreeing to open a single early voting site for four hours on a Sunday. Democrats had wanted two Sundays of voting before Election Day.

Civil rights activists have accused some Republicans of seeking to undermine the appellate court ruling by proposing still more barriers to ballot access.

GOP leaders have countered that it's fair for Republicans to use rules to their advantage, and that Democrats need to stop whining and play the game.

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