As the response to Hurricane Florence shifts from relief to recovery mode in the Carolinas, voting rights advocates are taking steps to ensure people living in or displaced from flood-stricken communities have access to the ballot in the upcoming election. Just days after the storm made landfall south of Wilmington on Sept. 14, the North Carolina NAACP announced it was launching a campaign to provide absentee ballot applications to registered voters in impacted counties. Under state law, any registered North Carolina voter may request an absentee ballot, no excuses needed, through 5 p.m. on Oct. 30. “It is imperative that while our communities struggle to recover from the devastating flooding and other destruction from this storm, citizens’ right to vote should not be impaired,” said Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, the group’s president.
The N.C. NAACP also called on the legislature to extend the Friday, Oct. 12 voter registration deadline in the 28 disaster-designated counties to Wednesday, Oct. 17. That’s the day the state’s one-stop early-voting period begins, when people can register and vote on the same day at any open polling site in their home county; it extends through Friday, Nov. 3. The elections board offers a one-stop voting site lookup tool.
When North Carolina lawmakers met on Oct. 2 for a one-day special session on hurricane relief called by Gov. Roy Cooper (D), they didn’t go as far as the NAACP wanted, but they did extend the voter registration deadline in disaster-declared counties to Monday, Oct. 15. They also voted to give an extra $400,000 to the state elections board to educate voters affected by the disaster and is requiring it to distribute voter information to shelters and other organizations aiding storm victims.
Meanwhile, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) is distributing fliers to help North Carolinians affected by the storm understand their voting rights. SCSJ notes that: