BOONE — Going forward, the Election Day voting location for Cove Creek Precinct residents will be at the Zionville Volunteer Fire Department’s Station No. 2 along U.S. 421, according to a unanimous vote by the Watauga County Board of Elections during its Tuesday, Nov. 19, meeting.
The move will go into effect for the 2020 primaries on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. Previously, Cove Creek Precinct Election Day voting was at the Western Watauga Community Center.
The reasons given for the move, according to board members, is that snow removal is guaranteed to be on time in the morning, the fire station is centrally located in the precinct, there’s more parking and there’s backup generators in case of an outage.
Board member Nancy Owen said she’s not a fan of changing precincts due to potential voter confusion, but she understood that the fire station was a much better option. Board member Eric Eller agreed, saying it’s right on U.S. 421 and will be cleared of snow for certain.
Board member Marv Williamsen, who was noted to live in the Cove Creek Precinct, said he was in favor of the move, but was concerned about voter confusion. Hodges said the board is required to send every voter a notification of Election Day precinct changes.
“The hope is for both parties to let their voters know why we’ve done this,” Hodges said.
Board Chair Jane Ann Hodges said there wasn’t a guarantee that the Western Watauga Community Center would be cleared of potential snow for the polls opening at 6:30 a.m.
Despite the Election Day move, the hope is for one-stop early voting to remain at the Western Watauga Community Center, the board explained. The reason given was that for early voting, the community center has its own advantages for the two-week early-voting period due to its activities for the senior population bringing people in.
“Western Watauga is one of our best early-voting sites,” Hodges said.
The one-stop early voting plan for the 2020 primaries will be decided by the board on Monday, Dec. 9, at 3 p.m. The regularly scheduled meeting was moved up one day to comply with the state’s deadline for submittal of one-stop plans.
In the other agenda item for the meeting, the board decided to keep the North Fork Precinct intact, forgoing a planned vote that would have split the precinct into adjoining precincts.
Previously, concerns were brought up about the North Fork Precinct and its Election Day voting location. An election precinct worker told the board in July that there are issues with the site, located in Edgar Eller’s garage (no relation to Eric Eller) at 271 South Road, Todd. Hodges previously brought up concerns about citizens in the western half of North Fork Precinct having to drive through Tennessee and other precincts to vote on Election Day.
However, Eric Eller and Owen said they had multiple people from North Fork talk to them in favor of keeping it the way it is, saying no one spoke in support of the resolution.
Eller brought up that on a bad weather day, citizens in the western half of North Fork can easily vote with a provisional ballot at the Zionville VFD Station No. 2 in the Cove Creek Precinct.
“They do have a valid option that is safely accessible,” Eller noted.
Eric Eller said that Edgar Eller was “adamant” that he wanted the polling location to remain in his garage and Hodges said she received a note about how the residents might not be able to drive to Meat Camp Precinct on a bad weather day.
Owen said it’s not an ideal polling place, but the citizens are comfortable voting there.
“They take pride in voting there,” Owen said. “I don’t think it’s in my place to take that away.”
Hodges brought up that this discussion topic has potentially opened the eyes of the residents in the area that they need precinct officials, which was one of the reasons the possibility was brought up.
In public comment, Anne Marie Yates said it would be a “travesty” for the board to close any precincts and said that the older folks of Watauga County deserve ease in voting much like the Appalachian State University students have fought for.