Election changes are afoot
While elections for 2014 are months away, the first step in the process is nearing quickly — the Feb. 10 to 28 period for candidates to get their name on the ballot.
This year, no statewide offices are up for election, but North Carolinians will be electing a U.S. senator, members of the N.C. General Assembly, and a number of local and regional offices, including district attorney, county sheriff, district court judges, county commissioners, the register of deeds and tax collector.
There is a separate, later filing period for those seeking posts on the school board or local sanitary and conservation districts.
So far, a number of candidates have announced their intentions to file for office, including Democrats Jane Hipps of Waynesville and Ron Robinson of Sylva, who will be vying for the 50th senate district now held by Republican Jim Davis of Franklin. If both file as announced, it will mean a Democratic primary race for the seat.
Both Jim Moore, a Haywood County Democrat, and Ashley Welch, a Macon County Republican, have announced they will be seeking the post now held by Mike Bonfoey, who is retiring.
In the county commissioner race, seats now held by Bill Upton, Mike Sorrells and Kirk Kirkpatrick, all Democrats, are up for grabs, as are the district judgeships now held by Donna Forga, Kristina Earwood and Roy Wijiwikrama.
While a number of election-related changes have been authorized by the N.C. General Assembly, many won’t become effective until the 2016 elections.
Haywood County Elections Director Robbie Inman urged residents to view this year’s elections as a “practice run” to help the transition go smoothly in two years.
By 2016, no individual without a photo ID will be allowed to vote, but poll workers will begin looking at photo IDs in the May and November elections, but those who don’t have one will still be allowed to vote in 2014.
“We’re encouraging people to show a photo ID as this will soon be a requirement,” Inman said. “Let’s go through this training period because it is in everybody’s best interest use it as a dress rehearsal.”
Those who don’t have a photo identification card can get one for free at the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles. For those who need to present a birth certificate or marriage license to get their voting ID for voting purposes can get the documents free of charge, said Sherri Rogers, Haywood County Register of Deeds. Registered copies of the documents typically cost $10 each.
The only voting method where a photo ID will not be required is for those using the mail-in absentee ballot option.
Additional voting site
Beginning this year, Haywood County will operate a third early voting site at the Clyde municipal building.
Under the new law, the time period for early voting has been decreased by 10 days, but the same number of operating hours — 213 — must be in effect.
Inman said because of the requirements that every site must have the same operating hours, there was no mathematical way to accomplish this without adding another site to the existing Senior Resources Center and Canton library locations.
The additional site will require additional county costs, Inman said, because new voting machines will be needed.
Machines used for early voting can’t be put into service during the primary and general election days because the votes on the machine have to be kept intact in the event a recount is requested. In addition, there will be additional staffing required for the third site.
Another extra cost Haywood County will need to cover as a result of the new election bill is changing out their current voting system with one that uses a paper ballot.
The DRE voting system used in Haywood County was certified as one of the acceptable election options in past year, but the new law, as written, means the county will have to upgrade its system before its useful life is over, Inman said.
“Will be able to use them for a few more elections, but I’m encouraging my board members to move into the process of replacing the system,” Inman said. “But, we don’t know what technology is out there or what will be certified in North Carolina.”