Responding to reports of numerous voting problems last week, the director of the Durham County Board of Elections respectfully requests that voters take some personal responsibility for knowing when and how to vote.
"This process is important," says Michael Perry. "Put an equal amount of effort into it that you do in filling out your Final Four brackets. Seriously."
He's got a point. Still, not all complaints about the messy March 15 primary in Durham should be summarily dismissed.
As the INDY reported last Wednesday, Democracy NC director Bob Hall singled out Durham for having some of the longest lines in the state. Meanwhile, state NAACP president William Barber II complained that voters at the Ivy Community Center endured "lines stretching the length of the exterior."
In an email, voter Jeremy Loftis told the INDY that his polling place in Hope Valley was beset by long lines spurred by malfunctioning computers and printers. In response, Perry says the BOE plans to purchase more equipment by November.
Polling places at East Regional Library, South Regional Library, and Forest View Elementary School were still open more than an hour past the closing time, 7:30 p.m., with lines of around two hundred people reported at each site. The last precinct turned in ballots at 1:22 a.m.
Some of that, Perry says, can be attributed to an after-work rush. This can't: the BOE failed to inform Precinct 55-49 voters that their polling site at N.C. Central's Student Union had been moved.
Perry says he doesn't know how that happened. But he also says some problems were beyond the BOE's control.
All year long, for example, the BOE mailed cards to voters, reminding them to keep their registration current. But many people tried to vote at the wrong location.
All that confusion added up to a lot of provisional ballots. As of Friday, Durham's election board had counted around eighteen hundred such ballots, about 50 percent more than Durham saw four years ago, Perry says.
On a more positive note, the stringent voter ID law that took effect last year didn't seem to have a dramatic effect on turnout.
Perry reports that this year's primary drew thirty-two thousand early voters, compared to twenty-seven thousand one-stop voters in 2012. On primary day, the number of voters was around 45,600, a slight downtick from 46,900 four years ago.
"I don't think there was anything even measurable related to photo ID," Perry says. "Obviously, there were a couple of extra seconds where someone had to look at an ID, whereas in the past, they didn't have to."
More (relatively) good news: Perry doesn't expect long lines for the June 7 congressional primary, which was added after a federal court ordered state lawmakers to redraw the racial gerrymander they enacted in 2011.
Bad news: that's because those primaries will have extraordinarily low turnout, which means that—thanks to a new GOP-friendly gerrymander that will ensure that November congressional elections aren't competitive—a handful of voters will get to decide who will represent us for the next two years.
Vive la démocratie, y'all.