Hurricane Dorian caused a halt in early voting in some North Carolina counties in an unusual House election where the fight for a Republican-held seat appears to be coming down to the wire -- with both parties hoping to claim a win.
The now-Category 1 storm has pounded the state with heavy rains and high winds just days before a special election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District that has drawn national attention since President Trump announced he will visit Monday as he holds a rally in Fayetteville.
The vote amounts to a re-do of last year’s election when absentee ballot fraud aimed at helping then-GOP candidate Mark Harris was discovered. This year, state Sen. Dan Bishop replaced Harris on the ballot. Bishop is running against Democrat Dan McCready in the election to be held on Tuesday.
The State Board of Elections closed a number of voting sites in Bladen, Cumberland, Robeson and Scotland counties on Wednesday, Thursday and possibly Friday once the board’s executive director assesses storm conditions, Raleigh’s News & Observer reported.
Early voting sites remained open in the district’s two counties with the largest number of registered voters — Union and Mecklenburg, where Charlotte is located. The state’s Democratic Party called for the board to extend early voting hours through the weekend and into Monday in order to make up for lost time during the closures.
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"I think that if the hours are not extended to match the hours that have been lost due to the closures, then it very well have an impact," Wayne Goodwin, chairman of North Carolina's Democratic Party, told The Hill. "We had seen this before in 2016 with the hurricane that struck just mere weeks before the November elections."
Both the GOP and the Democratic candidate vying for the vacant congressional seat vouched for early voting extension to ensure this year’s election goes off without a hitch. The state’s elections recently faced another type of scrutiny after a North Carolina trial court rejected state legislative district maps, saying GOP lawmakers took extreme advantage to help elect a maximum number of Republicans. Both chambers of North Carolina’s General Assembly are led by the Republican Party.
“This has been an election where the voters have faced every type of obstacle, from gerrymandering to absentee ballot fraud to a hurricane last fall that displaced thousands of voters,” McCready told the News & Observer. “Now the voters face another hurricane, which threatens to keep thousands more from being able to cast their sacred right to vote.”
Bishop's campaign said in a statement: "Our goal is to ensure every eligible voter in the 9th Congressional District has the opportunity to exercise his or her right to vote, and a districtwide extension of early voting into Saturday would help ensure no one is disenfranchised."
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Vice President Pence and Donald Trump Jr. will also visit the area as part of a push to rally Republican support, Politico reported. The Trump campaign announced this week it had donated the maximum $2,000 to Bishop. North Carolina voters have cast their votes in hurricane condition before during Matthew in 2016 and Florence in 2018, The Hill reported