Voters who live in Burlington are being directed, somewhat ironically, to a location in downtown Graham in order to cast early ballots in next month’s primary for Burlington’s city council.
Beginning this morning, voters who want to get a jump start on this field-pruning preliminary can visit the Graham Public Library at 211 South Main Street to make their selections. While this site may appear a bit out of the way for a Burlington-only competition, it is nevertheless strictly in line with the statutory requirements, according to Alamance County’s elections director Dawn Hurdle.
“The law stipulates that we have to have early voting in either our office,” Hurdle explained in an interview Wednesday, “or a location in ‘reasonable proximity’ to our office – which the general statutes consider to be within 2 to 3 miles.”
Hurdle added that the Graham Public Library happened to be just the right distance from the current site of the elections office, which recently relocated from its former digs at the corner of Maple and Pine Streets to a repurposed bank building at 1128 South Main Street in Graham.
During the early voting period, which runs from Thursday, September 21 through Saturday, October 7, eligible Burlington residents will be able to vote at the library from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each weekday – or from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on October 7. Early voting will not be available on any other Saturday or Sunday during the period. The primary itself will take place on Tuesday, October 10.
During the primary, the city’s voters will select four finalists to compete for the two regular seats that will be up for grabs on Burlington’s city council in November’s general election. This foursome will be drawn from a pool of would-be council members that currently includes Charlie Beasley, Dejuana Bigelow, Burlington’s former mayor pro tem Celo Faucette, Mary Jensen, Cindy Lackey, incumbent councilman Bob Ward, Brandy Whittaker, and Robin S. Wintringham.
Aside from having to venture across the city limits to Graham, voters in the upcoming primary will also need to bring along an acceptable photo I.D. to comply with the latest voting requirement in North Carolina.
After years of conflicting court rulings and acrimonious political wrangling, the stage is finally set for the voter I.D. mandate that has been a long-standing priority for the Republican-led General Assembly. In its final incarnation, this rule allows voters to present either a North Carolina driver’s license, another I.D. card issued by the state DMV, a North Carolina voter I.D. card, a U.S. Passport, a military I.D., or a veteran’s I.D. Elections officials will also accept a comparable out-of-state identification with the proviso that the voter must have moved to North Carolina before the statutory deadline to take part in the primary.
According to Hurdle, the new I.D. mandate does give voters some leeway if they’re caught without their preferred form of identification when they go to the polls.
“The picture,” she said, “has to have a reasonable resemblance to the person standing in front of the election worker, and the name has to be reasonably similar. The address is not one of the items they look at. Anyone who does not have an I.D. on them has two options,” Hurdle continued. “They can either vote a provisional ballot, and bring their I.D. to our office before the ‘canvas’ day [when the vote count is finalized]. Or the voter can get the I.D. and come back to vote.”
Hurdle also alluded to a statutory exemption for people who don’t have photo I.D.s. Under this exemption, they can fill out a provisional ballot, which is then set aside until after the primary, and fill out a form to explain the extenuating circumstances that have left them bereft of a photo I.D. These explanations will ultimately be evaluated by the county’s board of elections before its bipartisan membership decides whether to add the voter’s provisional ballot to the official tally.