By Jesse Wood
Oct. 31, 2012. Stacy “Four” Eggers, the only Republican-appointed member on the three-person board of the Watauga County Board of Elections, caused quite a stir among the liberal political junkies in Watauga after voting against extending the hours of early voting yesterday, and he is befuddled as to why.
“Why this is an issue is beyond me,” Eggers said.
By the time Eggers arrived at his house after the meeting, his vote was blasted on the liberal blog Watauga Watch and before he went to bed last night, he found himself at the center of a online petition titled: “Tell the Watauga County Board of Elections: ‘Don’t suppress our vote!’”
On Tuesday afternoon, the local election’s board held an emergency meeting to vote on extending hours at the early voting sites at the Watauga County Courthouse and ASU in the coming days due to the recent snow storms.
The N.C. State Board of Elections Executive Director Gary Bartlett initially directed county boards last week to consider extending early-vote hours because of long lines at the polls.
Watauga County didn’t have this long-line problem, however, another request was put out to local boards to consider extending the early-vote hours due to inclement weather North Carolina has encountered recently.
The other two voting members on the Watauga County Board of Elections are the Democratic-appointed Rusty Henson and Stella Anderson who voted for extending the hours. Without a unanimous decision, the board wasn’t allowed to extend the voting hours.
Speaking on Wednesday morning, Anderson was clearly agitated at last-night’s decision and said she has already filed an appeal to N.C. State Board of Elections to request an override of the decision.
“We felt – myself and Rusty – that there was clear evidence that both Monday and Tuesday [early voting was] disrupted, the volume of early voters were way down,” Anderson said. “I really wasn’t expecting dissent … I really don’t understand why there was resistance to this. I do not understand.”
Just as Anderson doesn’t understand Eggers position, Eggers doesn’t understand the backlash his vote has caused.
The petition created by Ian O’Keefe of Boone stated: “ASU students fought hard for the right to vote on campus but that right is now in danger. Just this afternoon, the Republican member of the Watauga County Board of Elections, Stacy C. Eggers IV, single-handedly refused to extend early voting hours despite the Governor declaring a State of Emergency in Boone and Watauga County.
Even though hundreds of voters could not cast their ballots today because of extreme snow and high winds, Mr. Eggers decided to play partisan politics by blocking the emergency extension of early voting hours. This isn’t the first time Mr. Eggers has tried to discourage student voting. This summer he voiced his opposition to voting on campus in the Student Union.”
On Wednesday morning, Eggers said, “When I saw that petition about me trying to suppress student votes, I started scratching my head about that because [current] hours of operation have not been affected.”
He added, “One of the allegations was made that I don’t want voting on campus. That is completely not true. I don’t think you can have voting in Watauga County without having a site on campus.”
“We live in Boone. It’s not unusual to have snow in October,” Eggers said. “I still think there is lots of opportunity for folks to vote. I hope everybody turns out to vote.”
Eggers said that the board met four or five months ago to come up with an implementation plan for early voting.
“We actually expanded hours and expanded the sites from what we had in the past,” Eggers said. “It was unanimous. We agreed on the days and hours in early vote for two and half weeks prior to the election and on Election Day.”
Eggers also said there would be “problems” with the logistics of changing the hours at the last minute.
For one, he said that there wasn’t enough time to get the word out by “running a legal ad” about the hour of operation changes and say, “Oh, by the way we are going longer tomorrow.”
He added that this potential extension wasn’t budgeted either, and that by extending the hours it would cause some of the staff to have to work until 10 to 11 p.m. at night.
“When the polls close at five, it doesn’t mean everyone gets to go home at five,” Eggers said. “Our director is here until eight or nine o’clock.”
Anderson didn’t agree with Eggers reasoning.
“I don’t want to speak for Four Eggers. He thinks he has his reasons and gave his reasons but none of those are legitimate factors,” Anderson said. “We have the money and staff available and have a clear disruption [from the weather] of the original schedule.”
In the past, conservatives haven’t been happy about early voting taking place on ASU campus and downtown Boone because of the number of liberal students and liberal townies voting with such ease, while folks in the county have to drive 45 minutes or more from rural areas of Watauga to early vote.
Eggers said he was a “big fan of setting up three or four more early voting sites” out into the county, and earlier in the year, Eggers said he made a motion for more sites out in the county “that died for lack of a second” at a prior Watauga County Board of Elections meeting.
“I would like to get those sites scattered,” Eggers said, adding that aside from the Foscoe Fire Department early voting site, the other two sites are within a mile of each other.
Anderson said that motion that died for lack of a second that Eggers mentioned was technically “incorrect.” She said that motion regarded a site in Deep Gap that was out of the way (more so than just coming into Boone) and was as close to the county line as it gets.
“I didn’t feel that [site] was warranted,” Anderson said.
She said that she and Henson are “not opposed” to sites on the Eastern and Western portions of the county, however, there are challenges in finding a site that is owned by the county or town and one that will be convenient and utilized by a sizable amount of voters.
Anderson also mentioned that several years back the county set up an early voting site that was at the Mountaineer Ruritan in Cove Creek but was not utilized, she said.
“Obviously that was before early voting caught on,” Anderson said.
Anderson said that this was a partisan decision on the part of Eggers, the Republican-appointed board member, to limit voters who have shied away from the polls during the inclement weather.
However, Eggers disagrees.
“It’s an odd role to be appointed by a political party [and play] the role as an elected official,” Eggers said, comparing his role on the board to an “umpire” as opposed to a member of a political team.
“I always strive to be nonpartisan. I hope you always find me to be fair. I encourage everyone to take advantage of early voting or go vote at your precinct on Election Day. If we could get everybody to turn out and vote that would be ideal.”
As for a decision regarding the appeal that Anderson filed, Anderson said she expects to hear back from the State Board of Election this afternoon.
Below is a letter that High Country Press received just after this article went online. Eggers wrote this letter to the State Board of Elections in response to the appeal that Anderson filed.