RALEIGH — Early in-person voting for two North Carolina congressional elections next week has been extended in counties that shuttered voting sites this week as Hurricane Dorian brought strong winds and heavy rains.
The State Board of Elections said that voting in Cumberland, Scotland, Robeson and Bladen counties resumed Friday for the 9th Congressional District special election and also would be held Saturday, ending in the early evening at some locations.
Later Friday, the board's top administrator also ordered early voting on Saturday in 11 counties in the coastal 3rd District, where all 17 counties had closed sites as early as Wednesday due to Dorian and remained closed Friday. The other six mostly northeastern counties in the 3rd District won't have Saturday voting.
Early voting began Aug. 21 for two special congressional elections in the 9th and 3rd districts. Election day for both is Tuesday.
Board Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell can use emergency powers when an election schedule is disrupted during a natural disaster.
Early voting in other 9th District counties further inland that didn't halt balloting — Mecklenburg, Union, Anson and Richmond — was to end late Friday as state law originally directed. Republican Dan Bishop and Democrat Dan McCready — the top candidates running in the 9th District — had urged Bell for early vote extensions in all the district's counties this weekend, with McCready asking it to continue through Monday.
But Bell wrote in her 9th District order that extending hours in only the counties that closed voting sites would "ensure that voters across the district are given a fair opportunity to participate in the election." Additional hours had to be considered alongside county election staffing demands and preparations for Tuesday's traditional balloting, such as the creation of poll books, she wrote.
The 9th District race is happening because state officials ordered a new election there after evidence was uncovered of absentee ballot fraud in last fall's election. Voters in the 3rd District are deciding between Democrat Allen Thomas, Republican Greg Murphy and two other candidates to fill the vacancy caused by February's death of GOP Rep. Walter Jones Jr.
The 11 counties in the 3rd District scheduled to hold early voting Saturday are Beaufort, Carteret, Chowan, Craven, Greene, Hyde, Jones, Lenoir, Onslow, Pamlico and Pitt counties. The other six without Saturday voting — Camden, Dare, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Currituck — have power outages, poor conditions or a lack of workers, the board said in a release.
During early-in person voting, people can register to vote and cast ballots at the same time. Same-day registrations can't occur on election day. Mail-in absentee ballots also can be cast. Bell's 3rd District order also directs all 17 counties to accept traditional absentee ballots longer after election day because of possible mail delays.