North Carolina closed a number of early voting sites ahead of a critical House election next week as Hurricane Dorian pounded the state with heavy rains and strong winds.
The storm comes just days before a special election in the state’s 9th District, which will pit Democrat Dan McCready against Republican state Sen. Dan Bishop, in a race seen as neck-and-neck in what has been a traditionally GOP stronghold.
The Sept. 10 race is being redone after the results of the 2018 election were tossed out because of widespread ballot fraud.
The North Carolina State Board of Elections said it had closed early voting sites in Robeson, Bladen, and Scotland counties, adding it had not determined when they would reopen.
McCready carried Scotland and Robeson counties in 2018, while his then-Republican opponent Mark Harris carried Bladen County.
However, Mecklenburg and Union, which have the largest population of registered voters, will keep their voting sites open, according to the board.
Strategists said they were monitoring how the storm could end up impacting the congressional race. Early voting data so far shows Democrats leading by 40.6 percent to 31.4 percent.
Still, Democrats are calling on early voting sites to be reopened during the weekend, in hopes that more voters will turn out ahead of the election next week.
The state’s 9th District has traditionally voted Republican, going for President Trump by 54 percent to 42 percent in 2016.
But McCready lost to Harris by just over 900 votes, raising Democrat hopes they can win the race next year as the aftermath of the ballot fraud hurts Republicans.
“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, the chairman of North Carolina’s Democratic Party, told The Hill, adding the closures impacts all voters not just Democrats.
“We had seen this before in 2016 with the hurricane that struck just mere weeks before the November elections.”
McCready’s campaign continues to push voters to turn out and will knock on 100,000 doors this weekend, weather and safety permitting, to turn out voters.
“We have been all week doing everything we can to make sure that people know that they should vote early ever since we heard the storm was hitting North Carolina,” an official from the McCready campaign told The Hill.
Meanwhile, Bishop’s campaign is also calling on the North Carolina Board of Elections to issue an early voting extension, specifically calling for the addition of Saturday hours in every country in the district.
“Our goal is to ensure every eligible voter in the ninth 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,” the campaign said in a statement.
The full extent of the storm’s damage to North Carolina’s coast is yet to be known. The state’s board of elections says they are considering adding hours depending on conditions on the ground, as well as other factors such as the availability of poll workers.
North Carolina is no stranger to having hurricanes during elections. The state’s voters cast their ballots in the wake of Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Florence in 2018.