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The votes are coming

Breaking down voting changes for the coming elections 

In 2013 the General Assembly of North Carolina passed House Bill 589. It is a Bill that changes various aspects of the voting process for the citizens of the State. Bill 589 contains 49 pages filled with revisions of existing laws, but the two revisions that have been gaining the most attention have been the early voting and photo identification reforms.

With the primary election right around the corner, it is important for citizens of North Carolina to understand how the revisions will effect this year’s election process for both the primary and general election.

YOU WILL NEED AN APPROVED FORM OF PHOTO IDENTIFICATION . . . BY 2016.

The reason for the photo ID reform, as stated in the first page of the package, is to “restore confidence in government by establishing the Voter Information Verification Act to promote the electoral process through education and increased registration of voters by requiring voters to provide photo ID to protect the right of each registered voter to cast a secure vote.”

According to Section 6.2 of the ratified Bill, a photo ID will not be required to vote until Jan 1, 2016. At each primary and general election from May 1, 2014 until Jan 1, 2016, each voter will be notified by an election official that a photo ID will be required beginning in 2016.

The official will then ask if the voter has an ID or any other approved forms of ID. If the voter doesn’t, the official will ask the voter to sign an acknowledgment of the photo identification requirement. The signature will be public record, and the voter will be given a list of approved photo IDs as well as information on how to obtain them.

IF YOU ARE NOT REGISTERED TO VOTE NOW, YOU WILL NOT VOTE IN THE MAY 6 PRIMARY ELECTION.

The ratified Bill states that anyone wishing to vote in an election must be registered 25 days before the election. The registration deadline was last Friday, and unlike years past, there will be no chance for same-day registration and voting during the early-voting period. Since 2008, North Carolina has allowed voting registration as late as three days prior to the election.

CHANGES IN THE EARLY-VOTING PERIOD?

While the revised Bill does shorten early-voting by a week, the hours required in early voting remain the same as they were in 2010. The early-voting period will begin on Apr 24, and it will end on May 3.

The one-stop early voting process, as stated on Forsyth County Board of Elections website, is “not earlier than the second Thursday before an election, in which absentee ballots are authorized…and not later than 1:00 pm on the last Saturday before that election, the voter shall appear in person…” to vote one-stop.

One-stop voting will be held at the Forsyth County Board of Elections located at 201 N. Chestnut Street in downtown Winston-Salem. Thursday and Friday, Apr 24 and 25, registered voters can come in to vote from 8AM – 5PM. On Apr 28 – May 2, registered voters can come in to vote from 8AM – 5PM. The final day of early-voting will be Saturday, May 3, and registered voters can come in to vote from 10AM – 1PM.

There are also three satellite locations for one-stop voting. Kernersville Library, Lewisville Library and Rural Hall Library will hold one-stop voting on Apr 28 and 29 from 11AM – 6PM and on Apr 30 and May 1 from 11AM – 5PM.

Forsyth County Board of Elections, under NC law, requires all voters to state their name and address and must sign an affidavit stating that they are voting early.

PAY ATTENTION TO NAMES ON THE BALLOT.

The names listed on the North Carolina ballots used to be in order of the popular party, meaning that whichever party had the most registered voters would have their candidate listed first. There are 2.77 million registered Democrats in North Carolina as opposed to 1.99 million registered Republicans. In previous years, that would have meant that the Democratic candidate would have been listed before the Republican candidate on the ballot for the general election.

The revised Bill lists the candidates based on the party of the governor. Because Governor Pat McCrory is a Republican, the first name listed on the ballot will be the candidate of the Republican Party.

Ballot order matters to candidates because it has been shown through a number of studies that the first name on the ballot receives more votes from the voters who aren’t educated on the candidates.

NO MORE STRAIGHT-TICKET VOTING.

In the past, the North Carolina voting process allowed voters to check one box that would automatically count as a vote for every candidate in the voter’s affiliated party. If you checked “Democrat,” you were voting for every

Democrat on the ballot. If you checked “Republican,” you were voting for every Republican on the ballot. The revised Bill does not allow this option.

OTHER REVISIONS OF THE VOTING PROCESS INCLUDE:

-Contributions made to political candidates cannot exceed $5,000.

-Students can no longer pre-register to vote at 16. They must be turning 18 by Election Day in order to register.

-Each party is allowed to send at least 10 poll monitors who live in the same precinct as the county they are observing.

HOW WILL THE CHANGES AFFECT FORSYTH COUNTY?

“Will it affect some of the numbers?

Sure,” said Lamar Joyner, Interim Director of the Forsyth County Board of Elections. “I can’t say whether it will be a negative effect or a positive effect.”

Joyner also mentioned that the voter turnout in Forsyth County, in the past, has been “pretty well,” but with a system so new, it is hard to predict the outcome it will have.

“There was a lot of information made available to the public in regards to the changes, so now we will just wait and see what happens.” Joyner said.

While some people may be put off by the new legislation, others may see it as a change in the right direction.

While Joyner politely declined to offer his personal feelings toward the changes, he believes that the people of the Forsyth County will speak for themselves over the next few weeks.

“The people who are interested in the election will come out to vote no matter what,” Joyner said.

For more information about the Bill, please visit ncga.state.nc.us.

hFor more information about voting in Forsyth County, please visit www. forsyth.cc/Elections/voters. !

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