Editorial: Saturday vote should stay

Published 6:21 pm Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Judging from the number of North Carolinians who take advantage of early voting, it’s a popular option. Unfortunately, the state’s lawmakers — including Reps. Carl Ford and Harry Warren of Rowan County — have voted to shut down the polls on a key day of the early voting period, the Saturday before Election Day. That is a mistake.

Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed Senate Bill 325, The Uniform & Expanded Early Voting Act. Overriding vetoes has been a partisan slam dunk since Republicans took control of the legislature, but this one should give legislators serious pause. Working people with busy families who can’t get to the polls on weekdays need this important option — especially at the last minute, when election excitement is at its peak.

In Rowan County, voter interest in the closing days of the 2016 presidential election was especially intense. Reporter Josh Bergeron wrote:

From start to finish on Saturday — the last for early voting — a line that occasionally exceeded 200 people stretched around the Rowan County Board of Elections, the only voting site open. Included in the line were young, old and first-time voters with mixed opinions about this year’s presidential race.

Even though only one site was open, and it closed at 1 p.m., nearly 1,000 people voted on Nov. 5 in Rowan County. That seems more like an argument for expanding Saturday voting than curtailing it.

Legislators’ rationale for this hasty, last-minute change in voting laws was to set uniform early voting hours across the state. They decided to start early voting a day earlier, cut off the last Saturday and require sites that operate Monday-Friday to be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

Extending weekday hours for early voting sounds like a good idea, if elections officials can accommodate them. But it’s an unfunded mandate from the state and an uneven swap for voters. Saturday — especially the last Saturday — is unlike any weekday. The last Saturday before elections and primaries has become crucial to many voters and should remain on the early voting calendar.

Cooper’s veto should stand.