Dems pleased, GOP stoical after early voting rulings

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The NC Board of Elections spent all day Thursday sorting out the details of early voting in the state.

It was standing room only inside the State Board of Elections office in Raleigh.

After a federal court ruled state lawmakers intentionally discriminated against black voters with their 2013 election law and big changes would have to be made for this upcoming election, the Board spent all day Thursday sorting out, county by county where and how many days North Carolinians would have to cast their ballots.

In its July 29 ruling, the U.S. 4th Circuit of Appeals called the state's 3-year-old election law, "the most restrictive voting law North Carolina has seen since the era of Jim Crow."

The judges struck down the voter ID requirement and forced the state to return to 17 days of early voting, instead of the 10 days Republicans wanted.

Outside the meeting in Raleigh, NC GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse defended against accusations that Republicans were using the law to discourage minorities from voting.

RELATED: BOE SUPPORTS PLAN TO EXPAND WAKE COUNTY EARLY VOTING SITES

"This is all ado about nothing," Woodhouse said. "This is about motivating the Democratic base because they have nothing to run on."

Inside the meeting, the state elections board had to sign off on new proposals for early voting dates, hours, and locations in 33 of the state's 100 counties.

Mark Ezell, the lone Democrat on Wake County's elections board, won his battle to overturn a Republican plan to open a single polling place for the first week of early voting. Ezell wanted nine locations. The Board agreed.

"We are the largest county in terms of the number of voters in the state and it's essential that we have as many opportunities for people to vote as possible," Ezell said after the decision.

At Raleigh's Angus Barn restaurant on Thursday evening, it was a rare bipartisan moment, this election season as Democrats and Republicans gathered for a political pig picking.

One point of disagreement, however, was over Woodhouse's emails to local elections boards -- pleading with members to not allow Sunday voting, used by many black churches as a "souls to the polls" event.

"The vast majority of counties have never voted on Sunday. We made it couple hundred years with nobody voting on Sunday," Woodhouse said.

"When I heard what Dallas (Woodhouse) had done, I thought it was absolutely atrocious," said Durham Democratic Sen. Floyd McKissick. "Nobody should be trying to limit access to voting booths."

Cary Republican Rep. Nelson Dollar insisted the Republican-backed voter ID law was aimed at fighting voter fraud not voter disenfranchisement. He sounded ready to move on from the fiery debates over early voting.

"The courts have ruled and so we'll have those 17 days, and we're looking forward to a strong campaign," Dollar said.

While all the state county elections boards have Republican majorities, the State Board of Elections did give some wins to Democrats.

Along with the expanded list of early voting sites in Wake County, Sunday voting will be restored in Hoke, Craven and Richmond counties.

Those are small adjustments that could have a big impact on this presidential battleground state election.

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