- Associated Press - Thursday, October 13, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina Democrats and civil rights groups are criticizing the State Board of Elections for not extending a voter registration deadline this week in light of Hurricane Matthew’s destruction, saying they want the board to reconsider.

Democratic state legislators, members of Congress, former Gov. Jim Hunt and state NAACP president the Rev. William Barber are among those urging that a Friday deadline be extended. They say displaced residents need additional time and may lack access to documents proving their residence for registration purposes because those documents are in flooded homes.

Barber also said Thursday that early in-person voting should be expanded and Saturday and Sunday early voting occur in storm-affected counties. He said poor people, African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to be disenfranchised.

“Streets are out, people cannot get where they need to go,” Barber said at a Legislative Building news conference. “People will have a lot of devastation to deal with once the waters recede.”

Board staff announced this week that mailed-in applications postmarked after Friday would be accepted as long as they are received by next Wednesday and the applications are dated by Friday. People can still register to vote and cast ballots during the early-voting period starting Oct. 20 through Nov. 5.

There is no registration on Election Day, Nov. 8, so the Friday deadline would apply to people who choose not to take advantage of registering during early in-person voting or who want to vote by mail-in absentee ballot.

During a conference call meeting Thursday, the five-member board discussed the voter registration situation with Executive Director Kim Strach, who has the authority to make such weather-related schedule changes. She said the board had received letters from the state Democratic Party and state NAACP seeking further extensions and were reviewing their requests.

Strach also pointed out that registration applications can be turned in by Friday to public libraries, DMV offices and public assistance offices. Board member Joshua Malcolm, who lives in storm-battered Robeson County, urged board staff to get registration and voter information out to the public through social media to alert people in flood-ravaged areas.

Barber on Thursday said by email that he and other clergy were prepared to go to court or participate in actions of civil disobedience if “these constitutional rights are blocked and undermined and the people not protected.”

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