The North Carolina State Board of Elections voted along party lines Monday to back plans for early voting on Sundays in some counties.
Under state law, the governor-appointed board – which has three Democrats and two Republicans on it – steps in when county boards fail to unanimously back one early voting plan or can't agree on the hours and locations of The state board's early voting sites. Many of the 18 counties that couldn't reach consensus this year were split on whether to include voting on Sundays.
Democratic majority backed the plans with Sunday hours. So, Bertie, Bladen, Cabarrus, Chatham, Forsyth, Greene, Guilford, Hoke, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, Rowan, Union and Wilson counties will have polls open on Sundays this early voting season.
Columbus, Duplin and Watauga will not have early voting on Sundays, and Rockingham will have just one Sunday — Oct. 18 — available for early voting.
For Guilford County, a plan that provides a polling site on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University – a historically Black college – got the backing of the Democratic majority. Stella Anderson, a professor at Appalachian State University, is a member of that majority.
"And my understanding is, is that the entire system promotes for its students' civic engagement,” she said.
A Guilford Republican said that site plan could hurt the school's efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus on campus.
Like many Democrats, Bertie County board chairman Mike Freeman said adding Sunday voting would broaden access to the polls and prevent crowding during the coronavirus pandemic.
"We would be disenfranchising citizens if we do not offer Sunday voting,” he said.
Some GOP opponents said opening polls on Sunday is unnecessary with many voters expected to mail in their ballots this year.
WUNC Digital Producer Mitchell Northam contributed to this story.