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State Elections Board To Hear Watauga Board Members Petition for Early Voting Sites for Primary Monday

By Jesse Wood

March 20, 2014. Members of the Watauga County Board of Elections will state their case for early voting sites in the May primary to the State Board of Elections on Monday, March 24. The meeting starts at 4 p.m. in the Embassy Suites in Cary. 

Because the early-voting plan that received the majority of the vote by Republicans at a March 5 meeting wasn’t unanimous, the board members must petition the State Board of Elections, which also has a Republican majority, with their respective plans.

At February and March meetings, Democrat Kathleen Campbell pleaded for early voting on the campus of Appalachian State University and another site central to Boone, while Republicans Luke Eggers and Bill Aceto voted to have early voting sites that were geographically centered throughout the county rather than central to a huge chunk of the population that lives, works and goes to school in town.

Last fall, the State Board of Elections heard a similar petition after Eggers and Aceto voted to eliminate an early voting site on the college campus for the November general election. The State Board of Elections, in a 4-1 vote, upheld the decision to eliminate early voting at ASU. 

The Republican plan that passed locally earlier this month has sites at:

  • Watauga County Administration Building in downtown Boone
  • Western Watauga Community Center in Sugar Grove
  • Blowing Rock Town Hall
  • Deep Gap Fire Department
  • Meat Camp Fire Department

The plan that Campbell advocated for has one-stop sites at:

  • Watauga County Administration Building in downtown Boone
  • Meat Camp Fire Department
  • Western Watauga Community Center
  • Blowing Rock Town Hall
  • ASU Plemmons Student Union
  • Boone Town Council Chambers 

On Thursday, Campbell said she has been told by an official at the state elections board that she will be allowed to speak – similar to the hearing last fall.

Several days ago, Campbell sent a 30-page document to the State Board of Elections advocating for her plan, her petition. She also carbon copied U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, along with some other liberal organizations such as American Civil Liberties Union.

The document states that the majority plan is in direct violation of state law, two amendments in the state constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The majority plan, Campbell’s 30-page petition states, “is designed to and will, in fact, disenfranchise and suppress the votes” of 18- to 29-year-old voters in the county, non-white voters in the county, Democrats and Democratic-leaning undaffiliated voters in the county.

In conclusion, Campbell’s petition states: “My plan, like the majority plan, argues in favor of offering rural Watauga County voters early voting opportunities in their communities. Where our plans differ is that while the majority plan is discriminatory, suppresses the votes of targeted voter segments, and is as a result unconstitutional, my plan provides justifiable and equal early voting opportunities for all Watauga County voters.” Read the entire document here. The list of exhibits can be viewed here

Aceto said that all the documentation provided to the State Board of Elections advocating the majority plan was presented at the monthly meeting earlier in March plus a map. 

“The plan adopted at our last meeting speaks for itself,” Aceto wrote in an email. “I do not have plans to draft any additional documentation unless the state has a request for further clarification. My understanding is we are one of three counties that did not have a unanimous decision, therefore the state board has to approve our plan prior to the primary. I feel confident the state will confirm our adopted plan.

Aceto mentioned that the majority plan as an increase of more than 30 voting hours over the minimum amount required by the state and that the voting sites are geographically centered off of the major corridors in Watauga County. Where as Campbell’s early-voting site hours – outside of the admin building which is set at 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. – alternate between 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., the majority plan has all voting hours held at 8 to 4 p.m., which Aceto said would be convenient for staff and consistent for residents. 

“I am excited to know that all citizens of the County will have accessibility to the poles for one stop voting as well as on election day,” Aceto said. 

 Aceto wrote why the majority plan didn’t include an early voting site on ASU:  

  • We are required to have a location at the County Election Board Office ( Being held at Commissioner Boardroom ) 
  • A proposed site being the student union Linville Falls rooms is impossible to enforce the state law that requires 50 foot voting buffers around the exterior of the voting enclosure.   Due to the multiple entries and exits this posed a problem and there have been reports of voter intimidation during the last presidential election. 
  • The County Board of Election voting site early voted in excess of 10,000 people the last presidential election and validates the site can more than adequately handle the needs of the urban areas of Boone. 
  • ASU’s campus will be utilized on election day for voting again at Legends.

Eggers, who voted for Aceto’s plan, didn’t respond to requests for comments on Thursday.

See the agenda for Monday below. 

For more stories regarding the Watauga County Board of Elections, click here