By Jesse Wood
Oct. 21, 2014. While awaiting a court decision on whether or not Watauga County will have an early-voting site on the campus of Appalachian State University, the State Board of Elections (SBOE) has received recommendations on where to place a site on the college campus.
In light of Wake County Superior Judge Donald Stephens order – which was appealed by the N.C. Attorney General’s Office, which is representing the SBOE in a lawsuit against local Democrats – instructing the SBOE to include a site on the campus, SBOE Executive Director Kim Strach reached out to ASU officials and members of the Watauga County Board of Elections for recommendations on where to place a site.
If early voting on the campus is mandated, Luke Eggers, a Republican and chair of the local BOE, is advocating for a one-stop site at either Legends or the McKinney Alumni Center, which he said were the “two most suitable sites” in an Oct. 17 letter to Strach.
Eggers added that both of those sites were “highly visible” from U.S. 321; has ample parking; and is within walking distance from numerous student apartments and dorms via sidewalks.
Eggers also made sure to note that he does “not believe” that the Linville Falls Room in the Plemmons Student Union is a “manageable site” for early voting or precinct voting. ASU officials and Kathleen Campbell, a Democrat on the local BOE, have been advocating for a site at Plemmons Student Union, which is in the middle of campus, for some time now to no avail with the Republican majority at the local and state levels opposing this location.
“The Plemmons Student Union is a four-story building with entrances on multiple levels and multiple entrances and exits … The Plemmons Student Union is not visible from a major roadway in Boone. For those unfamiliar with the building, it would be easy for a potential voter to become confused or discouraged from finding the appropriate location to vote within this building,” Eggers wrote. “… It is a problematic voting location.”
In an Oct. 18 letter to Strach, Campbell wrote: “In addition to the students, many faculty and staff prefer [the Plemmons Student Union] voting location because of the central location of the Student Union on campus. Staff, in particular, have only an hour for lunch and being able to vote on campus during a work day makes voting much easier for them.”
She added that if the SBOE was considering between the Plemmons Student Union or Legends, then the “Student Union appears to be the superior site.” She cited David Robertson, director of Student Programs and overseer of Legends and the Plemmons Student Union, in her letter to Strach.
“As testified by its own director, David Robertson, Legends is a nightclub (bar), subject to floods, without windows or back-up generators. It has a parking lot, busy with in-and-out traffic, full of cracks and bumps and located next to a five-lane highway … In addition, it is already booked for numerous contracted bands/performances during the early-voting period,” Campbell wrote.
Campbell didn’t mention the McKinney Alumni Center in her letter.
ASU Chancellor Sheri Everts also chimed in with a four-page letter to Strach.
Everts noted that Plemmons Student Union and Legends have been used as voting places on campus in the past. She listed the pros and cons of each site with the Plemmons Student Union having six “benefits” and two “challenges.”
Legends, on the other hand, had two “benefits” and five “challenges.”
“It [Legends] is simply not the most inviting facility to use for hosting our local community,” Everts wrote.
“In consultation with my leadership team and the leadership of the Student Government Association, I recommend that the Linville Falls Room or the Price Lake Room in the Plemmons Student Union be used for the 2014 early voting site on the Appalachian campus,” Everts wrote.
For more on this matter, click here.
See letters from Campbell, Eggers and Everts:
Watauga County Board of Elections – Eggers letter – 10-17-14