Jane Ann Hodges

Board Chair Chair Jane Ann Hodges speaks during a Jan. 14 Watauga Board of Elections meeting.

BOONE — The Watauga County Board of Elections voted on Jan. 14 to move the precinct transfer site from the Watauga County Courthouse to the Plemmons Student Union as well as decrease buffer zones for a few precinct polling sites.

The resolution passed by the board states that the transfer site can be used by “registrants that have moved from an address in one precinct to an address in another precinct within the same county more than 30 days before an election and (who) have failed to notify the county board of the change of address before the close of registration for that election.” The resolution adds that the county can permit a person to vote at a central location, known as a transfer site.

Watauga County Board of Elections Director Matt Snyder said that the hope of moving the transfer site would be to reduce the number of provisional votes, since most provisional ballots are cast at the Plemmons Student Union site. Several community members were in attendance of the meeting, some speaking in favor and others agains the move.

Snyder said that the 3-2 vote was along party lines, meaning Democrats Marvin Williamsen, Matthew Walpole and Board Chair Chair Jane Ann Hodges all voted in favor of the resolution and Republicans Nancy Owen and Eric Eller were in opposition.

The board also voted to reduce the buffer zone of three precinct sites. According to state statute 163A-1134, people cannot engage in election-related activity such as harassing others, distributing campaign literature, placing political advertising or soliciting votes within a buffer zone. The statute allows for a maximum of 50 feet and a minimum of 25 feet from the entrance to the voting place for a buffer zone. Hodges explained that if the county board chooses to reduce a buffer zone set at 50 feet, it must adopt a resolution to do so.

Hodges provided the examples of precincts where the 50-foot buffer zone may not be best fitting, such as the Boone Town Council Chambers on Blowing Rock Road, where 50 feet extends into the roadway.

The board voted to reduce the buffer zone at High Country Vacation Homes for the Foscoe early voting site to 45 feet, the Meat Camp Fire Department to 25 feet for the Meat Camp precinct and the Three Forks Baptist Association to 25 feet for the New River 2 precinct.

Snyder added that the last date to change party affiliation before the primary election is Feb. 7 by 5 p.m; voters cannot change party affiliation during the one-stop early voting period. Additionally, the last date to register without having to show proof of residency is also Feb. 7.

One-stop early voting begins Feb. 13 and ends Feb. 29. Those not registered can register to vote with proof of residency. Snyder added that any Watauga County voter can vote at any of the seven early voting sites. Primary Election Day is March 3. The precinct polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

“Who knows what kind of weather we’ll have, so get out and vote while the weather is good,” Snyder said.

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