Voting at student union

A line forms inside the Plemmons Student Union for provisional ballot voters in March.

BOONE — As the Watauga County Board of Elections mulls over various polling site possibilities for the November elections to allow for social distancing, the fate of the early voting and election day polling site at the Appalachian State University Plemmons Student Union is unknown.

At the board’s June 9 meeting, Watauga County Board of Elections Director Matt Snyder said he had spoken with university representatives who expressed a “high priority” of having students return to campus for classes, which may mean using campus spaces not utilized in the past for classrooms. One of the spaces that could be utilized is the Blue Ridge Ballroom that has been previously used by election officials as a polling site.

Snyder said he planned on contacting Jason Marshburn — the university’s director of environmental health, safety and emergency management — to discuss what plans the university may be following or solutions the elections board can follow.

“I do think we need to look at other alternatives for this election,” said board member Eric Eller.

Eller suggested possibly using App State’s Student Recreation Center, while board member Nancy Owen mentioned using the Holmes Convocation Center — to which Snyder said the convocation center may present handicap accessibility issues.

“We understand they have a huge demand for space,” Snyder said. “We just want to see what they think is the best location for us.”

The board discussed the possibility of using Watauga County Schools facilities as polling sites during its May 13 meeting. Snyder said elections officials were still 50-50 on if schools would need to be used, and that WCS Superintendent Scott Elliott said the Watauga Board of Education would support the use of schools on Election Day. The school board would like a formal request letter and to be notified by the end of July of a decision made by election officials, Snyder said.

Board Chair Jane Ann Hodges also asked Snyder to look into the possibility of using space on the Watauga campus of Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute for the Brushy Fork precinct.

The elections office has also been estimating cleaning and sanitizing costs during one-stop early voting. Snyder said he has questions in to state officials about what sanitation guidelines counties need to follow, such as if polling sites need to be re-sanitized or “fogged” with disinfectant at the end of each day.

According to Snyder, the Watauga County maintenance department agreed to clean the Western Watauga Community Center and county administration building each night, and the university said it would clean the student union if it’s used. This would leave elections officials with about three other one-stop sites to have cleaned, which could be anywhere from $100 to $300 each night for the roughly two weeks of early voting, according to Snyder. He added that the county might be able to use funding from the state’s allotment of the COVID-19 CARES Act money to pay for cleaning.

Snyder also mentioned that he was pleased with the funding allotted to the Board of Elections from the county, considering the financial challenges the county is facing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The board was granted $421,743 of its $449,349 request from the county — a $54,673 decrease from the 2019-20 funding the board received.

“This is going to be more expensive this year than it probably ever has been for us,” Snyder said.

Snyder also said that the elections office is continuing to quarantine itself from the public the best it can. If community members need to come in to review paperwork or file forms, Snyder said office staff can meet them in the conference room. Staff were also looking into requesting a second office space to be able to comply with social distancing requirements.

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(3) comments

Roadking

Someone please tell me why the college students of Appstate can vote in our local elections? If you check with the college itself the majority of the students Hometown IS NOT Boone, NC. Where did the Chancellor send them when Covid 19 broke out and we had to quarantine. No the students didn't stay in Boone to do so they were informed by their Chancellor to go home and stay there until told different. So, why are they allowed to vote in OUR local elections? This needs to stop and stop now.

thechaosaysmuuuu

Hometown is NOT the same as place of residence. So there's your first issue. Secondly, the students bring *a lot* of money into the local economy, and during their 4 years here many of them live here all year long and work here as well. Would you then propose stripping them of these rights? Do you have *any* data to back up any of your claims, or do you just enjoy spouting off BS? The only students that left town for COVID-19 were those that live on campus (and even then, there were exceptions!) Students living on campus only comprise ~1/3rd of the total student population. Are you then suggesting that the 2/3rds who DO NOT live on campus, but rather pay rent not have any say in the kinds of legislation which might directly impact their jobs, living conditions, etc.?

As someone who started out as a student here, and then like so many others never left and have no plans to leave (15 years and counting...) and spent 3 of my 4 years renting a cabin and working in town as I finished school, the kind of attitude you're espousing is downright pathetic.

I could be totally wrong, but I can't help but think that your tune would probably be a lot different if the majority of the student body tended towards your political leanings...

InTheMiddle

It's easy

A U.S. citizen; At least 18 years old by the day of the General Election;

A resident of the county for at least 30 days before the election in which you want to vote;

A person who is not serving a felony sentence, including probation or parole.

A 17 year old may register and vote in a Primary if they will be 18 on the day of the General Election; in the Primary, they may only vote on contests that will appear on the General Election ballot.

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