Preserve One-Stop Voting at UNC

Next Tuesday the Orange County Board of Elections will receive a proposal from Barry Garner, the Orange County Board of Elections Director, recommending the removal of the one-stop voting site from UNC Chapel Hill.

Mr. Garner argues that the "cost" and "extremely low" turnout justify the removal of the voting site. You may ask, then, what is Mr. Garner's proposal? Mr. Garner would like to move the voting site to the Seymour Senior Center, off of Homestead Road. This is a significant and inconvenient distance from campus.

In the upcoming election, City Council Members and the office of the Mayor will be up for election. This positions have a HUGE impact on the UNC community.

Leading from the Left Blogger, Mike Nelson, is then, 100% correct when he says, "It’s not just about students though. Since UNC is by far the county’s largest employer, it only makes sense to have a one stop voting site where it is easily accessible for faculty and staff." There are over 30,000 students, staff, and faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill, and they would all face significant impediments to voting.

Mr. Nelson is spot on when he urges his readers to write the Orange County Board of Elections, supporting one-stop voting on the UNC-Chapel Hill Campus.

More details to come...


Maybe this will encourage some GOTV

I know that quite a few people who were going to vote for me back home if they hadn't already been registered in CH - and they voted.

1 Thessalonians 5:21: But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.

I always wanted to be the avenging cowboy hero—that lone voice in the wilderness, fighting corruption and evil wherever I found it, and standing for freedom, truth and justice. - Bill Hicks

Morehead Planetarium

Students, Faculty and Staff have in the past used Morehead Planetarium to vote, however, with its recent renovation, an alternative location has yet to be found. There are all kinds of other building that could be used for One-stop voting in the surrounding area. Senator Kinnaird has been leading the charge looking for another location and there are several promising possibilities.


I've never heard of anyone (other than me, because I was working on the campaign I cast my absentee ballot for) absentee voting in their home county--and I know a lot of voters at UNC.


Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

Good post. Thanks.

I've voted at the Planetarium a lot. Parking's not great, but it sure is convenient to people on campus - which is why it was put there in the first place, I assume.

Moving to the Senior Center is a dumb idea.

You have to understand...

that voting at the planetarium is not like voting anywhere else. When you enter the planetarium, this is the scene that presents itself.

I always vote with my kids, and voting at the planetarium gives one the feel of fulfilling your civic duty. I hate that they will take it away from there and move it elsewhere.
One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn't have to understand something to feel it. - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.


What is the typical turnout at the campus location for municipal (off year) elections?

I am not familiar with the stats from Orange County, but I do know that odd-year elections have much lower turnout than even-year elections. Additionally, the demographics of the odd-year voter will generally be different than for even-year voters. Most noticeably, the average age of the voter skews much higher.

Might, just might, the likely voter in this year's elections be much better served by a much more accessible (to them) location like the senior center?

Finally, I take issue with the whole "limiting anyone's constitutional right (to) vote" line that is also in another recent posts. It seems some would not be satisfied with the scope of "voting rights" until it takes one absolutely no effort, thought, or time to register or vote. Moving an absentee voting location with proper notice does not "limit" anyone's right to vote. Possibly it could limit someone's ability to vote if for some reason the multiple options for voting (including by mail) are amazingly somehow all unworkable, but it does not limit their rights.

Don't get me wrong, I am in no way excusing all the things done in the past to deny some people the right to vote or even to register. However, when there are so many responsible citizens who register to vote on their own and vote every time, even when they must wait in line for hours, I have little sympathy for someone supposedly "disenfranchised" by the fact that they have to register to vote and then get off their butt and go to a voting place. Especially considering the options for voting by mail and the one-stop absentee methods, there is no real excuse to not vote. The overwhelming majority of disenfranchisement that goes on is self-inflicted.

I'd normally agree

but the new Senior Center is not a good location. Just my opinion.
Unfortunately, the planetarium location ain't that great either.

The Senior Center already has high 90% turnout

because that precinct is JUST the senior center and as a resident said to me "We're a captive audience, so to speak".
If that is what you were saying.
One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn't have to understand something to feel it. - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Good Debate!

You are right to take issue with that line of my post. This is not the time to argue over whether or not voting rights encompasses "no effort, thought, or time to register or vote. " That debate detracts from some of the larger points of this post. Namely, there are several locations that are accessible to both Students, Faculty, Staff AND the surrounding community. We need to keep this positive, proactive and focused. Many people feel that with the recent change enacted by the General Assembly, municipal turnout will increase. This is particularly the case at UNC because so many students make Chapel Hill their permanent home throughout their collegiate years.

Let's get something straight here.

If you want to improve turnout among low-turnout groups, then you make it easier for them to vote, not easier for the already likely voters. Seymour is 3 miles from campus--no student has ever heard of it or knows where it is, let alone what buses to take to get there. Oh yeah, most of us don't have cars on campus either.

Here is why students don't vote in large numbers.

1. They're in an unfamiliar, often out-of-state, place, and don't know the politics of the region, and are too busy adjusting to everything else in their life changing to learn about it.

2. They don't have time to watch local news on tv or read about it in the newspaper, and are generally not well-informed.

3. Campus is split into 4 different precincts, all off-campus. Therefore, almost nobody votes on election day. Nearly all students vote early at morehead planetarium.

4. Politicians don't make their case to students well. I remember that council candidates came in in 05 and told students stuff like "protect bolin creek" and "better town-gown relations." A lot of students don't even know where bolin creek is, much less what threat is facing it and why it should be protected. And town-university relations? What does that even mean to students? That's what you tell a provost, not an undergrad.

5. Students are profoundly affected by local government but are not given the tools they need to participate effectively. They don't know the area, they don't know the politicians, they don't know people.

Moving this site off-campus would make any voter registration or GOTV done by Young Democrats or Vote Carolina pointless, and they spend hundreds of hours registering and getting people out every year. (College Republicans just do voting fraud).

Or, maybe, college students are lazy, bad citizens, and don't care. They're only disenfranchising themselves, right?

All 90-something % that don't vote in Chapel Hill? On one of the most activist campuses in the country?

It's condescending shit like that and the resulting policies that the "grown ups" come up with that keep us disengaged. Voting is for everyone of age, even us "loud, dirty, irresponsible, dependent" students.

My generation is the most progressive we've seen in a loooooooooong time. So maybe if the election folks stop screwing us over with bullshit like this, we'll have a chance to vote.

Oh, and if anyone wants precedent for making voting accessible to people and working around their schedules, Election day is a tuesday because it used to take people a day's trip to travel to the county seat, where the voting was held, and aint nobody gonna spend a sunday traveling to vote on a monday. Trying to not inconvenience citizens as they vote is an old and honored principle of American government.


It's condescending shit like that and the resulting policies that the "grown ups" come up with that keep us disengaged. Voting is for everyone of age, even us "loud, dirty, irresponsible, dependent" students.

No one was being condescending.

The BOE said it was not cost effective. Do you have the numbers? I don't, but I know it's expensive in my little county to run a one-stop site. I imagine in Orange County it's more expensive, because you'd have to prepare for more voters, have more machines, more workers, etc.

The idea here is to discuss reasonably and see if there's a good solution, not automatically throw a generation gap into the mix, my friend.

As for whether or not your generation is the most progressive we've seen in years, well - get your asses to the polls and we'll see. We lonely liberals have been waiting a long time for you to grow up and be able to vote.

How about backing off a little - acknowledge that no one is giving you "condescending shit", and act like the grown up you want to be treated like?

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

As far as the cost debate is

As far as the cost debate is concerned, it is important to remember that UNC has had one-stop voting at the planetarium for many years. It is only now that the planetarium is getting renovated that UNC no longer "needs" a poling place. Furthermore, I am fairly confident that if money was the only issue, it could have been dealt with through fund raisers or other additional means.

Sorry, don't mean to say anyone here was condescending

But it really is as if some election officials, like the guy above, don't think students should be helped to vote. It's policies like this that ensure that UNC students won't have an accessible voting location. If someone moved a voting location for a normal urban neighborhood to 3 miles outside the precinct, people would think that's unreasonable. It's the same here.

I don't have any numbers; I can't imagine where one would find them. But I really don't think cost effectiveness is the point. Voting is a basic right. It simply does not make sense to locate voting locations a driving distance away from would-be voters who live in a pedestrian neighborhood. And anyone who would recommend a policy like this, like the elections official, either doesn't understand that basic principle (unlikely, I hope) or does not care about that neighborhood's ability to vote (even worse.)

I would say that the best solution would be to have a single precinct serving all of campus, with a voting location in a library or someplace. If that's not possible (and it won't be until precinct lines are redrawn years from now), then keep an early-voting site on campus. If they can't do that, then they're failing at the most basic principle of democracy.

This is a really personal issue for me. I do hundreds of hours of political volunteering every year and hurt my social and academic life as a result. So do many other students along with me. We do it because government is really important to us, and it's a huge slap in the face when they take a bad situation, of us not being able to reach a voting location on election day, and make it worse so we can't ever go vote.

Superprecinct on the way....

I've used the resources of the OC BOE for years and I've been as critical as most anyone else on their mistakes (not enough voting machines, confusing, instructions, etc.).

Not wanting folks to vote is not my experience with them. I don't know Barry Garner that well, at least as yet, but my interactions with him since his appointment convince me he is dedicated to getting more folks voting - to make it as convenient and accessible as possible. When I filed for office it was clear that he considered being the director of the BOE was more than a job - it was an honorable duty performed on behalf of all us small-d democrats.

He has constraints he has to work within, including a narrow budget mandated by the Board of Commissioners.

My suggestion? Howl at the BOCC for more money to fund both locations. Howl at UNC's administration - especially Moeser and Allred - to find a suitable replacement location on campus. HOWL at the BOE Board and the BOCC to get ESS to fix our machines and put a superprecinct in place.

And if you have any ideas about an alternative site, give Barry a call - he wants help solving this problem.

BOE Barry Garner

Telephone: (919) 245-2350

Fax Number: 919-644-3318

e-mail link


arey Jr., Moses Chair 203 Simerville Rd. Chapel Hill, N.C. 27517 (H)929-8513 (F)968-1920

Jacobs, Barry Vice Chair 2105 Moorefields Rd. Hillsborough, N.C. 27278 (H)732-4384 (W)732-4941 (F)732-4486

Foushee, Valerie P. Commissioner 106 Claris Court Chapel Hill, N.C. 27514 (H)942-2661 (F)933-3203

Gordon, Alice M. Commissioner 282 Edgewood Dr. Chapel Hill, N.C. 27517 (H) 933-0550 (F)967-3823

Nelson, Mike Commissioner 214 Webb St. Hillsborough, N.C. 27278 (H)749-6155

Allred -

Telephone: 919-962-4510

Moeser -

Office of the Chancellor

103 South Building

Campus Box 9100

Chapel Hill, NC 27599-9100

Phone: (919) 962-1365

Fax: (919) 962-1647

there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. MLK,Jr. to SCLC Leadership Class

there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. MLK,Jr. to SCLC Leadership Class

Thanks Will

You're always good for solid information. Much appreciated.

The last time the campus

The last time the campus seemed to care about municipal elections is when I was there in the early 90's. That's when Mark Chilton ran for council. He was a senior. I'm glad to see he has stayed with it and is now mayor of Carrboro.

Most of what you have said about students and municipal elections can be applied to the general public too. That's why the turnout is so low. I'm a big fan of local government and I don't like the apathy towards it, but it is a reality.

At least when I was at UNC, they had vans to take us to our voting places if they weren't nearby. It wasn't that big a deal, but I did have to set aside an hour to go vote.

One GOTV and candidates perspective

A little background.

I've worked on student GOTV efforts in Chapel Hill for about 15 years. In 2005 many non-freshman students were registered locally because of the 2004 Presidential GOTV effort. Local GOTV efforts in 2005, candidate Jason Baker and myself registered a fair number of students .

For Jason and I it wasn't about getting particular folks votes as much a continuation of what we've done for years - shake the trees and getting folks involved.

On campus turnout in 2005 was quite high if you were running in the student elections or for Homecoming Queen (16,000+ votes - more than 3 times higher than the 5728 (%14) of 40414 possible votes cast in the municipal election). Part of that weirdly disconcerting statistic was that the ease of voting in those races is significantly greater than in the regular elections.

Actually there's 5 possible precincts that students can vote in. Several of the locations are difficult to discern and inconvenient to get to and can't compete with online voting.

I've been pushing for a super-precinct on campus for years (so you can vote one place irrespective of your home precinct). Disappointingly, now that we're authorized to hold such an election it turns out our brand new election machines from ESS do not support such a configuration!

"Politicians don't make their case to students well."

Jason and I spent quite a bit of time on campus talking about student related issues. I was told by folks that should know that, as a non-student candidate, had spent more time than any other recent candidate working student issues. Bus scheduling, off-site housing, Downtown crime, etc. - all issues that the students brought up - all that played prominently in the Daily Tar Heel polls yet little one-on-one interest.

Given that, I can tell you that engaging students in municipal issues is quite difficult - and that a candidate can expect pretty much no return on their investment in time with the student populace (something many seasoned Chapel Hill pols told me going into my effort).

That said, I'll be back trying to engage the student populace this year. Not for the votes but because, like 2005, it's the right thing to do. I pretty much expect the same outcome.

Speaking of the Daily Tar Heel, under Ryan Tuck, their GOTV efforts in 2005 were phenomenal and unprecedented. The paper covered the issues, the candidates, the pragmatic aspects of voting and made many impassioned pleas to get out and vote. I'm not so hopeful this time (heck, I haven't even heard from the DTH - a courtesy they've extended the incumbents).

"Students are profoundly affected by local government but are not given the tools they need to participate effectively."

I'd broaden that to include our local citizenry in general. Strangely enough, the few students that voted didn't seem to support candidates - like Jason and myself - that had made opening up the governance process central planks in our campaigns.

OK, as this is BlueNC, I can't finish without riffing on the local Dems. Our municipal elections are non-partisan but, essentially, that's a pretense as OCDP folks play an important role in the races. I'm an Independent who has worked with the OCDP on GOTV over the years, so I well understand that someone politically active in one sphere - like the Party - will also likely be politically active in another.

Two things, though, that struck me as a candidate in 2005.

One, the off-campus OCDP coverage was better than the on-campus efforts - which were left to the Campus Dems (who I've also helped over the years). Coordination on the GOTV would've helped.

Two, the local Dem leadership didn't work with their local assets to get the students out to vote.

A little more on this point. Dean Smith, bless him, has been a great vote motivator. He'll go down to the Pit, rabble rouse and lead a bunch of folks back to Morehead to vote (imagine that happening at Homestead - how many would make the 4.5 mile trek?).

Great stuff.

During the 2005 election, there was an absolutely great opportunity to leverage the excitement around Edwards to do the same. Prior to a big rally Edwards held on campus - a rally about local engagement, voting, etc. - the on-campus Dems tried to get Edwards to commit to leading students - ala Dean Smith - to from the Student Union to Morehead. No dice..

As I heard it, they asked the OCDP to provide some encouragement (arm twisting) to get Edwards to do this but, for whatever reason, it was a non-starter. So, an opportunity to leverage a rally with thousands students - all revved up and ready to go - was squandered.

Again, in the off-year elections, where are the organized efforts to get the students in the habit of voting? The off-years - even as non-partisan offerings - present an excellent opportunity to practice GOTV, gather strength and to recruit new blood into the Party. Championship teams practice like hell before the big game - why the local parties don't get that makes no sense to me.

For all I've said, in the end you either think it's your responsibility to be involved and vote or you don't. For many folks it seems that it requires more than an abstract call to duty to motivate them - that something more visceral is called for. Maybe for students, starting out on their independent existence, Homecoming Queens are dramatically more important than local affairs.

And, that maybe gets to the nub of the problem. Quite frankly, if this early voting center ONLY served the students one could easily argue - using the calculus of "use it or lose it" - that the reward for their pathetic turnout was justly deserved.

No precinct turns out like Carol Woods, a retirement community - %68 compared to %14 in general in 2005. Maybe the Senior Center would do as well. In light of that calculus, does Barry's call seem so callous?

The stats on turnout are available here:

Registrants here:

Here's what I've said previously on keeping voting on campus:

there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. MLK,Jr. to SCLC Leadership Class

there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. MLK,Jr. to SCLC Leadership Class

That was kind of my point, SPLib

When I was in college, I voted by absentee ballot (even in off years, but I'm odd that way). I mailed it. I didn't register to vote in the town where I went to school, because I didn't plan on living there.

If the head of the BOE says that low turnout makes it unfeasible to have the voting center there, I'd want to see the comparative numbers before I jumped on a "they're trying to limit our voting rights" train.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

Morehead turnout

I would like to see figures for turnout there. Morehead never seemed to get the traffic I expected.
I would challenge the campus leaders like Moeser to encourage students to learn about elections and voting and get the campus to talk about elections and get the voting pattern set early. There was one school dean who sent out a reminder to her faculty, staff and students, to remind them that it was a civic responsibilty.

I have for two election cycles been at Morehead, Carrboro and Hillsborough during early voting. Carrboro gets folks going to the farmers market and to town hall as well as many folks who can walk to vote.

Hillsborough was new and most of the people voting there seem to be downtown Hillsborough folks.

At Morehead, there was free parking and I was always shocked at how few students and faculty came to vote there. If people were walking by there they were in a hurry and did not stop to vote.

I second the comments about Barry Garner being out for the ease of voting. He has worked hard to get input. He may be right that having someplace on campus has to have free easy parking, or it wont work.
We also would like to see the campus housing be all one precinct.

But how about someplace like University Mall where lots of people go and work anyway, there are buses there from allover town, and everyone knows where it is. and lots of parking.


Some stats from 2005

There was some discussion of campus turnout in 2005 here:

The problem with the BOE stats I linked to above is that the early voting of 300 students in 2003 and 450 in 2005 at Morehead is extrapolated slightly based on voters ages though long time observers agreed that was a fairly accurate assessment.

there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. MLK,Jr. to SCLC Leadership Class

there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. MLK,Jr. to SCLC Leadership Class