Hurricane Florence Disrupts Elections Preparations In Some NC Counties
Hurricane Florence disrupted daily operations for local governments in North Carolina, including county boards of elections. It's the second time in two years that voting officials have had to improvise just weeks before a General Election.In Craven County, it's deja vu for Director of Elections Meloni Wray. She remembers when Hurricane Matthew hit her office in New Bern two years ago, less than a month before a major election.
"The only difference is we didn't actually have our ballots here in-house," Wray said.
The state Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement drafted this year's ballots later than usual because of multiple lawsuits against four of this year's six proposed constitutional amendments. It turns out that delay helped avoid what could have been a lot of soggy ballots.
We are thankful we thought to move all of our election equipment out the Tuesday before the storm hit, because where we store our equipment was flooded and on the national news. - Meloni Wray
"And we are thankful we thought to move all of our election equipment out the Tuesday before the storm hit, because where we store our equipment was flooded and on the national news of it flooding," she said. "Ironically, the vendor that prints the majority of the ballots for North Carolina is in New Bern."
Kim Strach, executive director of the state Board of Elections, says the vendor worked overtime, and shipped some of the ballots to Raleigh for safekeeping. The board is also helping a handful of counties mail absentee ballots to active military overseas. That deadline is this weekend.
The Board extended the voter registration deadline for 36 counties when Hurricane Matthew hit in 2016. Strach says she still hasn't decided whether to do that this year.
"It's sort of a fluid event,” Strach said. “We still do not know how long it's going to take for some of these waters to recede, so if it comes to a point where we believe that people are going to be impacted by that, that's a decision we will have to make."
Rain, shine or persistent flooding, Wray says the 69,000 registered voters in Craven County will have a place to go when early voting starts October 17th, and on Election Day November 6th.
"We're used to having deadlines change on us at the last minute,” Wray said. “And I'm thankful in Craven County, we're ready. We'll do what we need to do. If we have to set up alternate places, we'll get it done somehow."
Voters have until October 12th to register to vote on Election Day.