On Oct. 19, Bill Aceto, the chairman of the Watauga County Board of Elections, requested a stay on a Wake County Superior Court ruling made on Oc. 12, which established the Appalachian State University Student Union as an early-voting site for Boone elections. Just a week after students won the right to vote early on campus, the site may still ultimately be denied.
We live in a nation founded on the ideal that our government rules from the consent of the governed. The legitimacy of any government depends on the citizens’ right to vote. Attempts to deny access to voting is a blatant attack on the most essential aspect of American democracy. So why would Bill Aceto not want students to vote?
Aceto claims that it is too much for the board of elections to pay for another site, but this is irrelevant because the town of Boone offered to pay for it. He then countered by saying that he is a tax-paying citizen of Boone and since he doesn’t want the town to pay for a site, no one else should have it either. Aceto is entitled to his opinion, but if thousands of tax-paying students and thousands more tax-paying Boone residents want a voting site in the student union, it should be provided. Aceto was appointed to uphold the interests of the citizens he serves, not just his own.
While more than 66 percent of registered voters in the town of Boone are younger than the age of 25, a group primarily composed of ASU students, a student union voting site is not exclusively for students. In every election where the site existed, it had the largest turnout of any early voting site in the entire county. As a site that the primary voting bloc of Boone plus thousands of other Watauga County residents have easy access to, it should be preserved by those who have been tasked with protecting the right to vote.
Aceto’s actions are contrary to the basic service he is meant to provide. And they are contrary to our nation’s democratic values.
Aceto made the choice to reject the bipartisan plan to establish an early voting site on Appalachian’s campus, rejecting the basic ideals of democracy and excluding thousands of voters from making their voices heard. At every step along this process, Aceto has done everything in his power to prevent students from having an early-voting site in the student union. This issue will not end with this year’s election, but will set the precedent for exclusion and denial of voting rights for years to come. This leaves students only one option for retaliation: make your voices heard and vote.
Lee Franklin and Sarah Aldridge, Boone