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Who would want to take away your right to vote? Part III

By Roland McReynolds
Posted Sunday, March 26, 2006

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Pittsboro, NC - I wrote last week about the Chatham Board of Elections actions that (1) make it harder for people in Pittsboro, Siler City and the northeast to vote on Election Day, (2) disenfranchise African-Americans, the elderly and people who commute to work out of county, and (3) undermine the whole idea of the early voting process.

Now the question becomes, why would the Board of Elections do this? After all, according to its website, the Board's objective is to ensure "no person who has chosen to exercise their right to vote is disenfranchised in any way."

You may recall I mentioned last week how Commissioner Tommy Emerson said that citizen concerns about new voting machines being used in early voting don't matter because "our people don't vote early."

Emerson's running for reelection from to the Board of Commissioners from District 5, against Carl Thompson. So who does Emerson mean when he says "our people"?

And speaking of candidates for the Board of Commissioners...

* The two Democrats who make up the majority of the three-person Board of Elections were nominated by Democrat Party Chair Mary Nettles, who's running against George Lucier for the District 3 seat being vacated by Carl Outz.

* Bunkey is backing Emerson's and Nettles' campaigns (see the ad in the Chatham News/Record two weeks ago paid for by Bunkey's campaign), and Nettles reportedly has complained to other Democrats that the "outsiders" who live in the northeast have too much political influence.

* In Bunkey's election four years ago, low voter turnout in the northeast made the difference. Bunkey lost all of the northeast precincts, and if the turnout in that area had matched the turnout in the precincts he won, Bunkey would have lost the overall vote. Now Bunkey is facing a challenge from Tom Vanderbeck.

* Nettles nominated both Audrey Poe and former School Board member Ernest Dark to their posts on the Board of Elections. Dark lost his School Board seat in 2004, and voter turnout in the northeast was a key reason why.

* Grassroots community groups, including the citizen's group I belong to, the Chatham Coalition, worked hard in 2004 to boost voter turnout. The increased numbers of voters won the Board of Commissioners elections for Mike Cross and Patrick Barnes.

So is it just coincidence that the Board of Elections has made it harder for people to exercise their right to vote, just weeks before Bunkey is about to have to face the voters for his four years of broken promises? And that they did it without public input? And that the working people and elderly residents who vote most consistently against Bunkey and his crew are hit the hardest by the changes?

For more information, visit

NEW ACTION ITEM: Let Chatham's state and Congressional representatives hear from you. They are up for election this year, and need to know that the ability of their constituents to support them on Election Day is at risk. Tell them to contact the county Board of Elections and the State Board of Elections and demand that those boards:

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, a state holiday, when it would be easiest for many commuters to vote.

3. Restore the four eliminated precincts, and add additional precincts to make sure each one is under the State-recommended 1,500 voters per Chatham 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 Chatham's state and Congressional representatives at:

Rep. Joe Hackney, House Majority Leader
North Carolina House of Representatives
2207 State Legislative Building
Raleigh, NC 27601-1096
Fax: (919) 828-6257

Sen. Bob Atwater
North Carolina State Senate
522 Legislative Office Building
Raleigh, NC 27603-5925

Congressman. David Price,
U.S. House of Representatives
5400 Trinity Road, Suite 205
Raleigh, NC 27607
Phone: 919-859-5999
Fax: 919-859-5998

Congressman. Bob Etheridge,
U.S. House of Representatives
225 Hillsborough Street, Suite 490
Raleigh, NC 27603
Phone: (919) 829-9122
Fax: (919) 829-9883

Roland McReynolds is a member of the Chatham Coalition Steering Committee

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