Washed out Democracy?

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The rough road to the ballot box

A week after Hurricane Matthew flooded many of the 99 low-income apartments in the Mt. Sinai Housing Community in south Fayetteville, the curbs are cluttered with sodden couches and chairs, mattresses and blankets.

Scenes like these — common throughout eastern North Carolina — are why the Rev. William Barber demanded last Thursday that the State Board of Elections allow flood-ravaged counties to extend their voter registration deadlines and their polling hours.

We shouldn’t have to go to court to get this done,” Barber said, flanked by more than a dozen clergy wearing black shirts and white clerical collars. “But to be very clear, we will. We not allow the state to undermine the victory in July.” That is when a federal appeals court struck down the state’s new discriminatory voting law.

The NC Democratic Party made good on its promise — it sued the SBOE — and Judge Donald Stephens extended the voter registration deadline in 36 counties until Wednesday.

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Photo: Lisa Sorg


It’s not a given that local boards of election are open for registration, especially in like Princeville, Kinston and Lumberton, where entire parts of the city are off-limits. Roads are closed, which means a 10-minute trip turns into a half hour, maybe even an hour, as streets not built for a lot of traffic are now clogged with semi-trucks and cars.

View all road closings around early registration sites

US 64, the main highway into Tarboro, is closed in all directions, as are parts of NC 111 and NC 33. The National Guard and state police have been stationed at the intersections and ramps, telling people to turn around. Of the five early voting sites in Edgecombe County, two are in flood-ravaged areas, downtown Tarboro and Pinetops. And for those who live in nearby Princeville, which abuts the Tar River, they’ve been evacuated and can’t return home.