Politics & Government

Longer hours, more sites for early voting in Mecklenburg County

The Mecklenburg County Board of Elections meets Wednesday. The board approved a plan for early voting that included longer voting hours and more polling sites, including one on UNC-Charlotte’s campus.
The Mecklenburg County Board of Elections meets Wednesday. The board approved a plan for early voting that included longer voting hours and more polling sites, including one on UNC-Charlotte’s campus. rcherzog@charlotteobserver.com

Early voters for November’s election can look forward to longer voting hours and a polling site on the UNC Charlotte campus.

Wednesday evening, the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections approved 29 early voting sites and longer weekday hours for those sites.

Fewer days, longer hours

The early voting period for the 2016 election is one week shorter than it was for the 2012 election.

To meet the state requirement for 2,742 hours of early voting, the board added seven polling sites and extended the weekday polling hours, Director of Elections Michael Dickerson said. This year’s weekday early voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., rather than 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. as they were in 2012.

Early voting will start Oct. 27, the second Thursday before the Nov. 8 general election.

The board added six new voting sites to compensate for the shorter early voting period.

Voting on campus

At July 13’s board meeting, members expressed concerns about the polling site located in UNCC’s Cone Center. The building’s multiple entrances and attached parking deck would make it difficult to control who entered, some said.

On Wednesday, the board decided voting would take place only on the ground level of the building.

“I’m satisfied that it meets all the requirements,” Board of Elections Chairwoman Mary Potter Summa said.

The Cone Center was an early voting site for the 2012 and 2008 general elections, but it was not used for the 2014 midterm election.

“It’s a really good location,” said Jane Whitley, vice chair of the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party. She said there are often long lines at the University City Regional Library site, so having a location on campus helps with overflow.

Democracy North Carolina field organizer Mel Hartsell said an on-campus voting site is more convenient for people who study and work on campus.

“On-campus sites make it easier for students, faculty and staff, who are on campus most of the time, to vote,” Hartsell said. “We really want first-time voters, many of whom are college students, to have an easier time voting.”

Mecklenburg County’s early voting plan will be sent to the North Carolina Board of Elections for approval by July 27, Dickerson said. The official schedule and list of polling places will be released the first week of August.

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