Amendment would allow court choice

By Mary Katherine Murphy

August 4, 2014

LAURINBURG — Those flocking to the polls on Election Day and during the early voting period two weeks prior will need to not only do their homework when selecting which candidates to choose, but also decide their position on an amendment to the state constitution appearing on the ballot.

If supported by a majority of the North Carolinians to vote in the November general election, the amendment will grant those accused of any crime for which the state is not seeking the death penalty the choice to be tried either by a judge or by a jury.

Voters curious about or seeking clarification on the issue, however, will not be given answers once they go to vote, Elections Director Dell Parker informed the Scotland County Board of Elections on Monday.

“We are not required, under any circumstances, to hand the voter a paper on the constitutional amendment,” said Parker. “We are told not to explain the constitutional amendment — it’s completely opposite anything we have ever been told.”

North Carolina’s last constitutional amendment barred same-sex marriages from state recognition, but elections staff were directed by the N.C. Board of Elections to inform voters about that amendment when they arrived at the polls.

“When that amendment was on the ballot we actually were told by the state board to hand everyone a sheet as the voters came in so they could read up on the amendment before they voted,” Parker said. “This email was telling us that we don’t have to do any of that; it will basically be the voter’s responsibility to research the amendment before they come to vote.”

Voters this fall will be given a ballot, asking them to select “for” or “against” a “constitutional amendment providing that a person accused of any criminal offense for which the State is not seeking a sentence of death in superior court may, in writing or on the record in court and with the consent of the trial judge, waive the person’s right to a trial by jury.

In other business, Parker informed the board that its request to conduct fewer hours of early voting than the 113 required by the state was approved last week. For the May primary election, the board opened Scotland Place Civic Center for five days as an auxiliary polling place, but only about 13 percent of the early votes in the county were cast there.

Early voting, held at the county annex on Cronly Street, will be held from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays from Oct. 23-Oct. 31, and on two Saturdays: Oct. 25 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Nov. 1 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Those not yet registered to vote in Scotland County will not be able to do so during the early voting period, and must register by Oct. 10 to be eligible to vote during the early voting period or on Election Day.

Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 506-3169. Follow her on Twitter @emkaylbg.