PRE News

Stories broadcast on PRE which are of interest to Eastern North Carolina

Full federal recognition of North Carolina’s Lumbee Tribe got a boost with President Donald Trump expressing support for a U.S. Senate bill that could bring millions of dollars more in funding to the community. The tribe received limited recognition from the federal government in the 1950s. The Senate measure also would allow the tribe to open a casino in Robeson County. Trump’s announcement of support came the day before the president announced he would hold a weekend rally in Lumberton. Joe Biden's campaign has given support to a Lumbee recognition bill in the House.

"Mounds of Absentee Ballots" by lancefisher is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Republican officials have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to shorten North Carolina’s recently extended deadline for accepting absentee ballots that are postmarked by Election Day. State Republican legislative leaders and President Donald Trump's campaign filed appeals on Thursday. The North Carolina State Board of Elections had announced in late September that absentee ballots could be accepted by counties until Nov. 12, as long as they were mailed by Election Day. That rule change lengthened the period for accepting ballots from three days to nine.


North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper says  the state will keep its reopening guidelines in place for three more weeks. The move comes as key metrics show a worsening of the coronavirus spread. The state on Wednesday eclipsed 4,000 deaths and 250,000 cases since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, noted that North Carolina saw its highest single-day increases in COVID-19 cases to date on two occasions last week.

NC Ferry Division

North Carolina transportation officials say five workers on one of its ferry routes have tested positive for COVID-19. The N.C. Department of Transportation says in a news release that the five employees work on the Cherry Branch-Minnesott Beach run. The news release says the five employees are recovering at home under quarantine for at least 14 days. They last worked on the route Oct. 20. Seven other employees who were in contact with the crew have not tested positive, but are also under quarantine.

A federal appeals court has ruled that North Carolina can accept absentee ballots for more than a week after Election Day as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling Tuesday night declining to block the deadline extension that was announced in late September. At the time, the State Board of Elections increased the deadline from three days to nine, as long as ballots were postmarked by Election Day. The change was part of a settlement with voting rights advocates.

"Mounds of Absentee Ballots" by lancefisher is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Time was dwindling for thousands of North Carolina voters to fix absentee voting errors as elections officials hustled out an updated process for handling mail-in ballot problems two weeks before Election Day. Court battles had halted processing of ballots mailed back with deficiencies from Oct. 4 until the state issued new guidance Monday. State and federal judges had frozen key parts of the process amid lawsuits over what to do with ballots that lacked a witness signature and other information.

Vidant Health in Greenville is joining other major health systems across North Carolina for a study to better understand the spread of COVID-19.  Participants 18 and over, will complete daily, online questionnaires about possible exposures, symptoms and health care visits.

A poll of North Carolina voters finds Democrat Joe Biden with a three point lead over Republican Donald Trump.  The poll, conducted Oct 15 through the 18th by East Carolina University’s Center for Survey Research, also showed the Senate race between Democrat Cal Cunningham and Republican Thom Tillis remains

North Carolina’s unemployment rate rose in September, as the number of additional jobs filled didn’t keep pace with people returning to the workforce as pandemic restrictions were lifted further. The state Department of Commerce said on Tuesday the seasonally adjusted jobless rate was 7.3% That compares to 6.5% in August. September saw about 38,700 more people employed compared to August, but those declared unemployed rose by over 44,000. North Carolina’s rate peaked during COVID-19 orders limiting movement and commerce at 12.9% in April.

Jodie B. Owen, NCWRC

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is asking for the public's help in monitoring the potential spread of a deadly rabbit disease. While the commission says there's been no evidence of the disease in the state, its biologists are working with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to keep an eye on Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Serotype 2. It's described as a fatal disease that affects both domestic and wild rabbit populations. RHDV2 is classified as a foreign animal disease in the U.S. and is primarily found in the southwestern U.S.

East Carolina University

A university in North Carolina has announced temporary furloughs and salary reductions for its athletics staff due to budget deficits caused by the coronavirus pandemic. East Carolina University's athletic director said in a statement Monday that the furloughs and pay cuts for coaches and staff members will start next month. They are based on salary, and will be effective through June 2021. The entire athletics staff had recently been furloughed for five days to reduce the school’s deficit by $4.7 million.

"Mounds of Absentee Ballots" by lancefisher is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

North Carolina issued new guidance Monday to allow counties to deal with more than 10,000 absentee ballots with various deficiencies that have been in limbo due to court battles over the witness requirement for voting by mail. The State Board of Elections issued a directive telling counties to immediately resume notifying voters whose ballots arrive with a range of deficiencies on how to fix the problem or start the process over. The memo tells counties that voters who mail in ballots without a witness signature must start a new ballot and have it witnessed again.

New Manufacturing Jobs Coming To Pitt, Robeson Counties

Oct 19, 2020

Two manufacturing companies are expected to bring 106 new jobs to Southeastern North Carolina after receiving grants from the state’s Rural Infrastructure Authority. PRE’s Jamie Rodriguez has more.

Corolla Wild Horse Fund

An agency that watches wild horses on North Carolina's Outer Banks is warning fishermen to clean up their hooks and lines to keep the animals from getting tangled in them. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund says on its Facebook page that in recent weeks, horses got hooks tangled in their manes as well as the hair of their lower legs. One horse had to be rescued for medical treatment after it was spotted eating fishing line like it was grass. An official points out that there are six young horses on the beach this fall and they are prone to put things in their mouths that don't belong.

North Carolina public health officials have released a plan about which groups of people it plans to prioritize when a coronavirus vaccine becomes available. The state's Department of Health and Human Services says the initial vaccination will go to to health care workers and other essential workers. Workers and residents in long-term care facilities and people with multiple illnesses or diseases that occur at the same time. But North Carolina expects to evaluate that guidance more closely over time.

COVID-19 Safeguards In Place At Local Early Voting Sites

Oct 16, 2020
Jared Brumbaugh

As in-person early voting begins, polling places will have to contend with the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond disinfecting, social distancing guidelines and free masks, PRE’s Jamie Rodriguez reports on what will go on inside polling places to protect voters and workers from coronavirus.

"Mounds of Absentee Ballots" by lancefisher is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

North Carolina county elections boards will have to wait on further court decisions to process thousands of absentee ballots with incomplete witness information and other deficiencies after state and federal judges put additional freezes on the process. Counties had already been under instructions issued Oct. 4 by the State Board of Elections to set ballots aside and take no further action while multiple lawsuits over absentee ballots unfold.

Jared Brumbaugh

The first day of early voting brought record numbers to the polls in Craven County.  The county’s Board of Elections reports 3,580 voters cast their ballots at five one stop early voting sites. The previous record was recorded in 2012 with 2,002 people voting on the first day of early voting.

“We have had historic lines the first day,” said Meloni Wray, the Director of Craven County Board of Elections.


North Carolina has recorded its highest single-day COVID-19 case count since the pandemic began. The state’s top public health official on Thursday warned that trends are sliding in the wrong direction and high-risk activities may have to be rolled back. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper says he'll reevaluate his Phase 3 reopening guidelines next week. Health officials have warned against large indoor gatherings of unmasked people. COVID-related hospitalizations have increased along with the percentage of tests that are coming back positive.

Early in-person voting is starting in North Carolina, where the historically popular form of casting ballots has been upstaged this fall by people voting by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic. Early-vote locations open in all 100 counties Thursday morning. President Donald Trump planned to hold a rally Thursday afternoon in Greenville, while Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris prepared for appearances in Charlotte and Asheville. The early-vote option ends Oct. 31. More than 60% of the ballots cast in 2016 in North Carolina were cast through early in-person voting.

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest participated in the lone gubernatorial debate of the 2020 election cycle. Cooper criticized Forest for refusing to wear masks at political rallies. Forest attacked Cooper for a slow reopening of schools and businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. Coronavirus trends have worsened in North Carolina as the state has transitioned to a Phase 3 reopening. The two also traded jabs about how to support small businesses that are looking to reopen.

A federal judge has ordered North Carolina elections officials to update absentee voting rules to ensure that voters prove they have had someone witness their ballot. Judge William Osteen issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday ordering state officials to rewrite a directive issued in late September that allowed voters to fix a lack of a witness signature by returning an affidavit. However, he said he wouldn’t block that kind of fix for small errors such as an incomplete witness address. Ballots with incomplete witness info and other deficiencies have been in limbo since at least Oct.

A judge says an insurance company magnate and major North Carolina political donor convicted on corruption-related counts must begin his federal prison term next week. U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn rejected Greg Lindberg’s request that that his active sentence be delayed so he can more effectively appeal his conviction and because of an elevated risk of contracting COVID-19 in prison. Lindberg is supposed to report Tuesday to a prison in Alabama.

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest will participate in the lone gubernatorial debate of the 2020 election cycle. The Wednesday debate will be hosted by the state's Association of Broadcasters. Cooper has long criticized Forest for refusing to wear masks at political rallies. Forest has attacked Cooper for a slow reopening of schools and businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. Coronavirus trends have worsened in North Carolina as the state has transitioned to a Phase 3 reopening.


The North Carolina Transportation Department reports that the number of animals hit by drivers in North Carolina increased in 2019 to the highest levels recorded in more than five years. The department released a report Monday detailing three years’ worth of animal-related crashes. Researchers found that such collisions killed five people and injured more than 2,800 from 2017 to 2019. According to the report, the number of crashes had been declining from a high of more than 20,330 in 2013, but soared to 20,331 in 2019.

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis is back in Washington and attending in person the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett after getting the go-ahead following his COVID-19 diagnosis this month. The Republican was in the hearing room Tuesday, one day after Tillis' doctor told him he could end his self-quarantine for COVID-19. Tillis announced his positive coronavirus test on Oct. 2. The physician wrote that Tillis had fulfilled all the criteria from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to end his isolation.

Some North Carolina parents are running out of time to ensure they receive additional money later this year for help during the COVID-19 pandemic. A new state law directs $335 payments go automatically to 2019 tax filers who reported having at least one child age 16 or under. Parents or guardians who didn’t make enough money last year to file a return can still get the “Extra Credit Grant,” but they must file an application by Thursday to qualify. The law says the money is designed to assist with virtual schooling and child-care costs during the pandemic.

"Mounds of Absentee Ballots" by lancefisher is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Weeks from the election, three of North Carolina’s most populous counties are often taking two weeks or more to send absentee ballots out to voters who request them. The Associated Press analyzed data on absentee ballot requests over a period from Sept. 1, when the state launched an online request portal, through Oct. 5. AP's analysis shows that in Wake County, the state’s largest, it took an average of 15 days from when voters requested ballots to when the county printed and mailed out the absentee ballots by mail during that period.

Four horses have died and a dozen more have turned up sick at a North Carolina stable, and officials are searching for a source of the illness. New Hope Stables in Hertford in Perquimans County reports no one knows what made the horses sick. A Facebook post by the stable says almost all infectious diseases have been ruled out, and that the focus is shifting to poisoning. The horses were all tested for coronavirus and other diseases, and all the tests came back negative. The post also said the stable is working with the N.C. Department of Agriculture to determine the cause.

Liam James Doyle/NPR

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Barrett would fill the seat left vacant with the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Watch the hearings live.