By Jesse Wood
Update: Watauga County Board of Elections voted to 2-1 to approve Mount Vernon Baptist Church as the New River 3 polling precinct on Wednesday night.
Because the county wasn’t able to lease the Mutton Crossing location for Election Day on Nov. 4, the board needed to find a new polling site for New River 3 precinct. Chair Luke Eggers and Secretary Bill Aceto, both Republican board members, voted to move the polling site to Mount Vernon Baptist Church.
Eggers noted that the church and parking lot off of Bamboo Road was big enough to accommodate the voters on Election Day. Eggers said that because the church is “used for lots of events in the community” it would be easy to find. He also added that the church is currently an “emergency site” for the county, so it already meets a checklist of state safety and handicap-accessibility codes.
Democrat board member Kathleen Campbell, who disapproved of the Mount Vernon location, suggested the Watauga High School, Watauga Arts Council Building and Appalachian Brian Estates, the latter two of which are located off of Shadowline Drive.
Campbell said that by choosing the Watauga High School and Watauga County Arts Council, which is county owned, then taxpayers wouldn’t have to pay to keep leasing private property for the polling site. Campbell, who said she looked at 14 different sites, said she focused on sites that were accessible by public transportation or were within walking distance. She also looked for sites that were handicap accessible, had plenty of parking spaces and were big enough to accommodate voters on Election Day.
She criticized the Mount Vernon location because it wasn’t on a bus route and wasn’t within walking distance “unless you live out in the county across the street.” She said the new location was further from town than Mutton Crossing. (The New River 3 polling precinct was located at the Boone National Guard Armory before Aceto and Eggers voted to move it to Mutton Crossing off of Bamboo Road.)
“It’s as far as you can get from the major population center in Boone, six or more miles out of town,” Campbell said, adding that even the huge parking lot the church is in a different precinct.
Eggers noted that he had issues with the Watauga High School site because the parking lot would be full of students in November. He also said that he preferred not utilizing a county school because of conflict that happened in Green Valley School on a prior Election Day.
As far as public transportation and sites within walking distance, Eggers said that half the voting districts in the county don’t have access to public transportation.
“Should we just move them all in [closer to Boone]?” Eggers asked.
Campbell noted that people who live out in the county generally have cars, but for those that live in Boone in the New River 3 precinct can get around town without the need for a personal vehicle.
As Campbell continued speaking on behalf of sites other than Mount Vernon, Eggers cut her off and “called the question,” a maneuver at board meetings that ends discussion and puts the matter up for a vote.
Watauga County Board of Elections Meets Wednesday To Decide on Contentious New River 3 Precinct Location
Sept. 3, 2014. The Watauga County Board of Elections will meet tonight at 5 p.m. to discuss and take action on the relocation of New River 3 precinct. The meeting takes place in the commissioners board room in the administration building.
Watauga County Board of Elections Director Jane Ann Hodges said that the county previously leased the Mutton Crossing location, but her office found out after the second primary that that location wouldn’t be available for the general election on Nov. 4.
Hodges said that board members have been looking at other potential precinct sites.
New River 3 precinct was a source of contention between Democrat Kathleen Campbell and the two Republican board members Luke Eggers and Bill Aceto for the general election in 2013. The GOP members voted to move the precinct from the Boone National Guard Armory, which Campbell said was central to the population in the precinct, to the Mutton Crossing location on Bamboo Road, which Aceto said was “geographically central” to the precinct.
(Hodges said that the armory won’t be available this year because of renovations.)
On Wednesday, Aceto mentioned that site that “sticks out to me” is the Mount Vernon Baptist Church off of Bamboo Road.
He said it currently serves as an emergency site and meets a checklist of state election law standards for a polling precinct. He also noted that it is on a “major thoroughfare.”
Campbell mentioned that she was considering multiple sites such as the Watauga High School, Appalachian Brian Estates and the Watauga County Arts Council building. She noted that she was focused on locations that were near public transportation stops, had plenty of parking, were handicap accessible and were closer to the “population center.”
See agenda here: Agenda for 9-3-14 Board Meeting