Rockingham County ordered to reopen voting site

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 31, 2020

REIDSVILLE (AP) — A judge issued a temporary restraining order Friday which reopens a rural North Carolina voting site that was closed due to a coronavirus case reported at the location.

North Carolina’s Democratic Party had sought the move after filing a lawsuit Thursday which said one of Rockingham County’s four early voting locations was closed Wednesday after a positive COVID-19 test at the location. The lawsuit did not make clear if the positive case was a voter or a poll worker.

In the order, the judge said the plaintiffs and their members “are likely to sustain irreparable harm to the fundamental right to vote unless a temporary restraining order is issued.” The order also said reopening the early voting site “outweighs any possible harm in preserving the status quo.”

In response to a request by state Democrats to extend voting hours over the weekend, the judge said the site should open no later than 8 a.m. and remain open through 3 p.m. today. Rockingham County elections officials also were ordered to post a notice on its website informing voters of the site’s hours.

Early in-person voting in North Carolina is scheduled to end today. Voters can currently cast ballots at any of the other three early voting sites in the county, but the lawsuit argues that the one that closed disproportionately affects registered Democrats who live in the area.

Rockingham County is home to nearly 62,000 registered voters. Like all North Carolina counties, its board has a Democratic majority reflecting the governor’s party.

The county’s deputy elections director, Kathy Clark, didn’t immediately respond to an email and phone call seeking comment.