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BOE urged to include Sundays in One-Stop Early Voting Plan

BOE urged to include Sundays in One-Stop Early Voting Plan
July 29
13:16 2020

With Election Day less than 100 days away, later this week the Forsyth County Board of Elections (FCBOE) will meet to discuss the One-Stop Early Voting Plan. And last week several local organizations joined a public cry for the board to include Sundays in the plan to make early voting more accessible.

To account for gathering restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, Karen Bronson Bell, director of the N.C. Board of Elections, has urged counties to consider conducting early voting each of the 17 days permitted by law and expand the number of early voting sites for the 2020 general election. But on Thursday, July 16, the FCBOE discussed adopting an early-voting plan that includes 16 sites and only 15 days.

In a petition sent to the board of elections and obtained by The Chronicle, several organizations including the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity (MCWSV), Democracy NC, the local NAACP and several other organizations, said the FCBOE has ignored Bell’s recommendations and the dozens of citizens who have requested that Sundays be added to the plan. The petition also states that the FCBOE’s plan doesn’t meet the requirements outlined in an emergency order issued earlier this month. The emergency order requires all counties to open each early voting site for at least 10 hours on the weekends of Oct. 17-18 and Oct. 24-25.

When discussing the possibility of adding Sundays, several board members raised concerns. At least one FCBOE member said they wanted to exclude Sundays because it “…interfered with the observance of the Sabbath and religious freedom.” In response, petitioners say limiting voting to Saturday interferes with the observance of the Sabbath for the Jewish community, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Seventh Day Adventists.

The petition reads, “The FCBOE serves ALL citizens in Forsyth County. Citizens that practice many religious faiths or no religious faith and all are entitled to the same right to vote. To exclude Sunday voting for religious reasons infringes on the rights of citizens with no religious affiliation and those who worship on Saturdays. In addition, for many in our community working long hours Monday through Friday, two weekend days offer increased opportunity to exercise their right to vote. Finally, for many religious people, particularly African Americans, voting is a central aspect of their faith commitment.”

Along with adding Sundays to the early voting plan, petitioners are also asking the FCBOE to add three new sites: Rupert-Bell Recreation Center, Minnie Lee Harris Recreation Center and Salem Lake Marina, to the 16 sites already proposed.

It’s important to note that Forsyth County hasn’t had Sunday voting since 2014. Historically here in Forsyth County and across the state, Democrats have been in support of including Sunday voting while Republicans have argued that adding Sundays would overextend staff.

The Forsyth County Board of Elections is expected to discuss the One-Stop Early Voting Plan during a special telephonic meeting at 5 p.m. on Thursday, July 30. The public can listen to the meeting by dialing 712-770-4694 and the access code 814755. For more information visit https://www.forsyth.cc/Elections/.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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