Affirmed: No Sunday voting in Richmond County

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County Board of Elections Director Connie Kelly on Tuesday received an approval letter for the county’s one-stop voting plan for the 2014 election cycle.

In the letter, Kim Strach, executive director of the North Carolina Board of Elections, reiterated a decision made Thursday by the state board to approve Richmond County’s decision to opt out of Sunday voting. On July 8, the three-member county Board of Elections voted 2-1 to not to offer Sunday voting in the general election this fall.

election2014logoCarlton Hawkins, a Democrat and board secretary, made a motion in July  to modify the 113-hour schedule to allow for three hours of voting from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 26. Republican members A.B. Brown, chairman, and Ernie Walters were opposed to the idea and Hawkins’ motion died for lack of a second. Hawkins appealed to the state board but his appeal was denied.

The board must provide voters a minimum of 113 hours of early voting and, due to a change in state law, must do so in five fewer days’ time this November election.

Hawkins said his argument in favor of Sunday voting was that it was done in Richmond County successfully for the 2012 presidential election. A total of 571 Richmond County voters cast their ballot on Sunday — 5.5 percent of the 10,372 votes cast in that general election.

The state board also approved an alternative site for the early voting precinct in downtown Rockingham. Instead of voting at the Board of Elections office on Hancock Street, early voting has been moved to the N.C. Cooperative Extension Office at 123 Caroline St.

Early voting schedule

Board members also agreed to modify the originally proposed schedule from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Instead, early voting will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Cooperative Extension location on the following days of early voting: Oct. 23, Oct. 24, Oct. 27, Oct. 28, Oct. 29, Oct. 30 and Oct. 31.

At Cole Auditorium in Hamlet and at Ellerbe Town Hall, 108 W. Page St., Ellerbe, early voting will be available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 29 and Oct. 30, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 31 and from 9 a.m .to 1 p.m. Nov. 1.

Absentee ballots

Kelly said absentee ballots will be available as soon as Sept. 5. Registered voters can go online here to complete an application or call 910-997-8254 and an application can be mailed to them.

Deadline to vote

The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 4 general election is 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10.

Constitutional amendment

North Carolina voters will find plenty of candidates to select from when they go to the voting booth this November. But they will find just one proposed amendment to the state constitution asking them to make a “For” or “Against” choice.

“Proposed constitutional amendments rarely draw the big political advertising dollars or media attention that major elections involving candidates receive,” North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall said. “So it is very important for voters to take a pause during the upcoming election season and to think about how they feel about this proposed amendment, before Tuesday, Nov. 4, when they will see it on their ballots.”

The 2013 General Assembly approved a measure that, if approved as an amendment to the N.C. Constitution, would change how some criminal trials are conducted. If approved by the voters, Section 24 of Article I of the N.C. Constitution would be changed to read as follows:

No person shall be convicted of any crime but by the unanimous verdict of a jury in open court, except that a person accused of any criminal offense for which the state is not seeking a sentence of death in superior court may, in writing or on the record in the court and with the consent of the trial judge, waive jury trial, subject to procedures prescribed by the General Assembly. The General Assembly may, however, provide for other means of trial for misdemeanors, with the right of appeal for trial de novo.”

The General Assembly also approved the language that voters will see on the ballot as they consider this constitutional amendment:

[   ]   FOR   [    ]   AGAINST
Constitutional amendment providing that a person accused of any criminal offense for which the state is not seeking a sentence of death in superior court may, in writing or on the record in court and with the consent of the trial judge, waive the person’s right to a trial by jury.

The Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission has approved language for an official explanation of the proposed amendment that is provided to voters to asset them in understanding the amendment. The commission has there members, including Marshall, N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper and George Hall, the General Assembly’s legislative services officer.

Here is the official explanation adopted by the commission:

The North Carolina Constitution currently states that a person accused of a crime and who is not pleading guilty to that charge cannot be convicted unless a jury decides the person is guilty. 

The The proposed amendment to the Constitution would allow a person accused of a crime to choose to be tried by either a judge or a jury. Choosing not to have a jury trial is called waiving the right to a jury trial. If passed, the proposed amendment would require a person wanting to waive the right to a jury trial to say so in court or in writing. A judge would then have to agree to that request. If a person accused of a crime waives the right to a jury trial, a judge would decide whether the person is guilty.

Jury trials would still be required in all cases with a possibility of a death sentence. Nothing in this proposed amendment changes federal law regarding criminal trials.

If the majority of voters vote “FOR” the amendment, a person accused of a crime will be able to waive the right to a jury trial in case as described above.

If the major it of voters do not vote “FOR” the amendment, the law will not change and a person accused of a crime will not be able to waive the right to a jury trial.

If voters reject the proposed amendment by voting “Against,” then the current North Carolina trial system requiring a jury trial will remain in place.

 

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