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Routine Business Divides Watauga County Board of Elections Members Along Party Lines at Meeting Tuesday

The board discusses agenda items on Monday. Photo by Jesse Wood
The board discusses agenda items on Monday. In the background is Luke Eggers (left) and Bill Aceto. Photo by Jesse Wood

By Jesse Wood

Aug. 20, 2013. While Tuesday’s Watauga County Board of Elections meeting consisted of only two routine business items – approval of minutes from the contentious Aug. 12 meeting and appointment of precinct officials – the meeting still drew divisive votes along party lines.

The 10-minute meeting was called to order at 9 a.m. After one of the Republicans – Luke Eggers or Bill Aceto – motioned to approve the minutes, Democrat Kathleen Campbell called for a discussion to amend the minutes from the previous meeting that made national news.

Her amendment concerned the agenda item from last Monday to adopt a new one-stop implementation plan for the 2013 municipal elections, which narrowed the early voting polling places from ASU, Foscoe and the Watauga County Courthouse to only Watauga County Board of Commissioners boardroom on King Street.

Her amendment was as follows: “[Chair] Eggers and Secretary Aceto voted in favor, and Member Campbell voted against. The motion did not pass due to the requirement for unanimity of approval for One Stop Plans. The statute provides that “if a county board of elections has considered a proposed Plan or Plans for Implementation and has been unable to reach unanimity in favor of a plan, a member or members of that county board of elections may petition the State Board of Elections to adopt a plan for it. If petitioned, the State Board may also receive and consider alternative petitions from another member or members of that county board. The State Board of Elections may adopt a Plan for that county. The State Board, in that plan, shall take into consideration factors including geographic, demographic, and partisan interests of that county.”

Before reading the entire amendment, Campbell noted that both Eggers and herself have already petitioned the State Board of Elections regarding the matter. After the reading, she moved to amend the minutes.

After a few seconds of silence, Eggers said, “The motion does not pass for lack of a second.”

The meeting then moved on to the next item of business – the appointment of precinct officials. Watauga County Republican Party Chair Anne-Marie Yates and Watauga County Democratic Chair Diane Tilson both submitted a list of precinct officials.

The appointments were unanimously approved, and then the meeting adjourned. 

After the meeting, Campbell and some of the other community members in attendance expressed outrage when Campbell learned that Eggers “vetoed” portions of Aug. 12 meeting minutes that Donna Houck, a staff member at the Watauga County Board of Elections office, prepared. (As has happened in the past, Elections Director Jane Ann Hodges said the chair or the secretary reviews the minutes before the finalized version is submitted for adoption at the next meeting.)

Last week, Houck prepared minutes of last Monday’s meeting. During Houck’s formation of the minutes of the meeting, Campbell gave elections staff a hard copy of her lengthy objections that she read from during the Aug. 12 meeting. Houck used the hard copy Campbell provided to shape the meeting minutes, Hodges said. However, Eggers requested Houcks to draft a condensed version that didn’t include Campbell’s objections at length and that was the version that the board voted on during the meeting.

Speaking to a group of reporters after the meeting, Campbell said, “We’ve got the truncated version of the minutes that contained none of my objections.”