BOONE — The Watauga County Board of Elections was unable to come to a unanimous decision July 12 in its vote to set an early voting plan for the November general election.
Board Chairman Bill Aceto a Republican, submitted a plan that would include Legends as a one-stop early voting site on the Appalachian State University campus to replace the site at the Plemmons Student Union.
Board Secretary Nancy Owen, a Republican, voted in favor of the plan, but Democratic elections board member Stella Anderson voted against.
Since the board was unable to come to an unanimous decision, the plan must now be sent to the North Carolina State Board of Elections, which will recommend a solution based on the “geographic, demographic and partisan interests of that county.”
Watauga County was forced to go through the same process in 2014 when board members were unable to unanimously agree on an early voting plan for that election.
More than 50 people were in attendance at the elections board meeting Tuesday and 30 signed up to speak at the meeting.
The board heard comments from community members and students in support of retaining the early voting site at the student union.
Jalyn Howard, the incoming ASU student body president, said that in his opinion the student union site had no problems during the last primary.
“Through my experience, the early voting site (at ASU) was very successful,” Howard said. “We only recommend the student union. I don’t see anywhere else on campus that will be suitable. I don’t think there is any other solution to this problem — the administration and the students have said: ‘The student union is it.’”
App State student Elaina Doyle said that, like many others, she cast her first-ever ballot at the Plemmons Student Union.
“I am proud to say that the ASU student union was the first place that I exercised my right to vote,” Doyle said. “The student union site is important to students, but it is also utilized by faculty and staff who use that site, as it is most accessible. I hope that we can put aside partisanship and continue to use this site.”
“I have worked with students for many, many years. and I find them to be sincere and informed,” Boone Town Councilwoman Loretta Clawson said. “They deserve the most convenient place to vote. Staff votes at the student union, faculty votes there, I vote there, it is a very used venue. I support the rights of the students to have the right to vote in a convenient place.”
Two residents of Beech Mountain addressed the board with concerns about rural Watauga residents’ access to convenient polling locations.
“I live 24 miles one way to the nearest poll,” said Beech Mountain resident Barabra Piquet. “Why can’t students, who are young and healthy, walk to another site just minutes from campus when the taxpayers of Beech Mountain have to drive an hour to vote? Legends as a one-stop site is good for all county residents — not just students.”
Watauga County Republican Party Chairman Nathan Miller said that Legends was a superior polling site, as it was located on a “corridor” and not a “side-street” like the student union.
Miller also said that it was impossible to police Plemmons to prevent electioneering.
Democratic congressional hopeful Sue Counts spoke in support of the continuation of the Plemmons Union site.
“It is my hope to leave here this evening with a renewed sense of gratitude to this board for putting the founding ideals of this great nation ahead of petty partisanship,” Counts said.