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Despite North Carolina vote changes, groups may go to court

In 67 counties, the three-member boards of election were able to come to unanimous decisions on their early voting plans - sometimes, as in Guilford County, through a lot of pressure and protest.

As Baker spoke, N.C. Republican Party executive director Dallas Woodhouse sat on the front row of a packed conference room. "There are people who enjoy their Sundays with their church and their families". Residents can submit mail-in ballots without an excuse starting Friday, and early voting at the polls will begin Oct 20 in the Tar Heel state.

Still a GOP state board member joined the board's two Democrats in approving eight additional sites in the first week in Wake County, which includes Raleigh and is home to more than 10 percent of the state's 6.7 million voters.

Generally, the state board favored plans made by a majority of each county's board - nearly always two Republicans - over the Democratic alternative. But the board declined to add sites in Nash County, noting its smaller population. Democrats had complained that only six locations would have been open during the first week and would have meant fewer voting hours overall compared with 2012. The Democrat on the board wanted 22 sites during that week - the same number offered during the rest of the period.

According to the Board of Elections, as of September 8, 152,130 voters were registered as Hispanics, or 2.27 percent of North Carolina's electorate.

"I don't see how the majority plan can function for the needs of Mecklenburg County", Baker said. North Carolinians can now send in absentee ballots by mail for any reason (they'll be able to cast their vote in person starting October 20).

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An Associated Press analysis found that 50 to 75 percent of the vote is expected be cast early in the presidential battleground states of Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and North Carolina. In that same week of early voting in 2012, more than 72,000 people cast ballots in Wake. State law bans campaigning inside polling places.

By a 3-2 vote, the state board instead Thursday agreed to a local Democratic plan opening up eight additional sites and providing a second Sunday of voting. "I think this is going to be the poster child of what not to do", he said.

Predominantly black churches have traditionally driven members to vote in "souls to the polls" efforts on Sundays, and the 4th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals found that the state's Republican leaders used provisions in the law with "almost surgical precision" to gain an edge by limiting these and other ways of voting.

North Carolina voters are the first of what's expected to be more than a third of Americans who will vote long before Election Day 2016. These conflicts occurred after a court ruling ordering early voting return to 17 days, up from ten. The court ruling eliminated that floor on hours - meaning that counties can legally provide fewer hours and fewer early voting sites than they did in the last presidential election.

The state board was still debating some counties' plans after 9 p.m. Thursday, more than 11 hours after the meeting began.

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