DURHAM COUNTY, N.C.—The North Carolina state Board of Elections voted to extend voting hours past 7:30 p.m. in two counties by up to one hour where technical problems earlier in the day led to disruptions and long wait times for voters there.
The board voted to extend voting hours in a Columbus County precinct by 30 minutes, until 8:00, after a printer error delayed voting earlier in the day. In Durham County, several precincts reported problems with their electronic voter books. The county switched to use paper backups of the books, which are used routinely to check in voters at the polls, but still experienced delays of up to two hours in at least one precinct. Over the objections of its two Democratic members, the board voted to extend voting hours by 60 minutes in one precinct and by 30 minutes in the others in question.
Durham County is 38 percent African American and is crucial to Democrats’ efforts to boost African American turnout and win the state. African American early voting turnout dropped by 9 percent in North Carolina compared to 2012. Some local Democrats blamed the drop on flooding from Hurricane Matthew, which has displaced thousands of African Americans in the state. Other Democrats pointed to voting restrictions passed by the state legislature in 2013 as responsible for a portion of the decline.
The board did not reach a decision until 7 p.m., 30 minutes before the polls were scheduled to close. Before the meeting adjourned, Dr. William Barber of the state NAACP argued that all of the polls in Durham County should have remained open for 90 minutes extra on Election Day. He called any effort to disenfranchise voters “immoral, unconstitutional, and un-American.”