LUMBERTON — A state board on Sunday is expected to decide how many satellite voting sites will be open during the Nov. 6 General Election in Robeson County.
The decision has been left to the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement because the Robeson County Board of Elections was unable to come to a unanimous decision, deadlocking at 2-2 along party lines on two plans that were considered.
The state board, which is meeting in Winston-Salem, will make the decision for Robeson and 14 other counties that also could not make a unanimous decision. The state board has the option of selecting one of the two plans offered by the Robeson County Board of Election, or putting forth its on plan.
Joshua Malcolm, a local attorney who works for The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, is vice chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, which was recently created by the Republican-led General Assembly.
Recent state law added a fourth member to the local elections boards, which had consisted of three members, with the party holding the Governor’s Office having the majority of two members.
In July, the two Democrats on the county Board of Elections, Tiffany Peguise-Powers and Larry Townsend, favored opening five satellite sites in addition to the Board of Elections office on Walnut Street near downtown Lumberton; the Republicans on the board, Daniel Locklear and Steve Stone, favored opening two sites in addition to the elections office.
Under Peguise-Powers and Townsend’s plan, there would be satellite sites at Maxton, Fairmont, Red Springs, St. Pauls and Pembroke, while Stone and Locklear favored satellite sites only at Pembroke and Fairmont.
The state General Assembly took away local flexibility on hours and days, requiring the satellite sites be open for 13 days — three Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and two Mondays and Tuesdays — and Saturday voting at the elections office only for the November election. The state also requires that any satellite site, once opened, be open for at least 12 hours that day. That is not required of the elections office.
G.L. Pridgen, director of the local Board of Elections, expressed concerns about the more liberal Democratic plan and the cost locally of paying workers, especially since four or more hours of overtime would be required each day. Pridgen, a former state representative and a Republican, also worried about poll workers because weary from long hours.
Malcolm, a Democrat, said when lawmakers were considering the legislation he warned against the “burden” that would be placed on local elections boards, saying one size does not fit all.
“What works in Charlotte doesn’t necessarily work everywhere else,” he said at the time. “County boards need to have the ability to shape the early voting hours that match the voters in their communities.”
Editor Donnie Douglas can be reached at 910-416-5649 or [email protected]