A civil rights group and key legislator are concerned enough about how residents displaced by Hurricane Florence will be able to vote that they’re seeking action on ballot and registration access. On the eve of special session addressing Florence relief, the state NAACP held a news conference Monday asking the state elections board to extend the traditional voter registration deadline from Oct. 12 to Oct. 17 in close to 30 eastern counties. But Republican Rep. David Lewis, a House Elections Committee chairman, said he’s put together legislation for Tuesday’s special session for Florence relief that would extend traditional registration until Oct. 15 in 28 counties currently declared federal disaster areas.
The legislation also would direct election officials to educate the public in areas harmed by the hurricane about their voting and registration options and give election boards flexibility to replace damaged voting sites, according to a release from the General Assembly’s top GOP leaders. The state board is still assessing site damages, Strach wrote last week.
The Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, the state NAACP president, wanted to go further by easing absentee ballot deadlines. That includes letting people who moved temporarily to another county because of the storm cast absentee ballots on Election Day in person at a polling place in that county, according to a letter Spearman wrote to elected officials and the state board. Currently, those ballots don’t count, even for statewide races.
There also needs to be options for more in-person early voting and Election Day polling sites in affected areas and voter education efforts, Spearman’s letter says.