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Who would want to take away your right to vote?

By Roland McReynolds
Posted Thursday, March 16, 2006

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Pittsboro, NC - Let's see if I have this right:

* The Board of Elections eliminates four polling sites in the most heavily populated areas of the county:

- Pittsboro, which previously had two polling locations, has been cut to one, and now there are 4,500 voters in the new combined precinct. The State Board of Elections guidelines suggest 1,500 voters as the maximum precinct size for Chatham.

- And it eliminated two polling places in the heavily populated area northeast of the Haw River. Forty percent of the county's voters live there, and they now have access to only six polling sites, instead of eight.

- Siler City has lost one of it's three polling places.

* Between the consolidation of Pittsboro and East & Central Siler City, half of the county's African-American voters are now concentrated in two precincts.

* All told, 21,000 of Chatham's 36,000 registered voters - that's 60 percent - face longer lines on May 2 thanks to the reduction in the number of precincts. At least 250 voters an hour have to be processed in Pittsboro - assuming the flow of voters is a steady all day. In reality most of the voting is concentrated in the early morning and early evening.

* In those areas, the average number of voters per polling site now will be almost 2,700. By comparison, there are three precincts in the southwestern corner of the county that have a total between them of 2,700 voters.

* Every one of the new merged districts has a new polling place, one that voters in neither of the old precincts used in the last election. For voters in the former East Manns Chapel precinct, this is the third new polling location in three elections.

* In the merged Manns Chapel precinct, the new polling site is Perry Harrison school, far off the main traffic arteries. So the large number of voters who commute out-of-county from this area will have to drive the opposite direction from their work to exercise their right to vote.

* In the new Manns Chapel and the enlarged North Williams precincts, the new voting sites are at schools, so commuting voters will encounter school traffic congestion during the times that it's most convenient for working people to vote, the early morning and late afternoon.

* And oh yes, the Board consolidated the precincts without notifying voters in advance.

Sounds like African-Americans and out-of-county commuters will see long lines and limited access to polling places on May 2, if they can even find where they're supposed to vote.

You can find out more by visiting www.chathamcoalition.org

These kind of shenanigans are bad for all of us because they degrade local democracy. Write the county Board and the State Board of Elections and demand that they:

1. Add an additional Early Voting site in the northeast section of the county to promote the ability of working families and elderly voters to participate in Chatham's democracy.

2. Open early voting sites on April 14, Good Friday.

3. Restore the four incorrectly eliminated precincts, and add additional precincts to make sure each one is under the state-recommended 1,500 voters per district.

4. Extend voting hours on May 2 to 10 pm so as many people as possible get the chance to cast their vote.

You can write the State Board of Elections, care of Executive Director Gary Bartlett, at:
Mailing Address: PO Box 27255, Raleigh, NC 27611-7255
Email: elections.sboe@ncmail.net
Fax: (919) 715-0135

Do it right away! The SBOE's next meeting is Tuesday, March 21.

You can write the Chatham BOE, care of Director Dawn Stumpf, at
Mailing Address: 984 Thompson St., Ste. D, Pittsboro, NC 27312
Email: CHATHAM.boe@ncmail.net
Fax: 545-2428

Roland McReynolds is a member of the Chatham Coalition Steering Committee

 
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