The campus of Appalachian State University, more specifically the Plemmons Student Union, will be without a one-stop voting location this fall.
The Watauga County Board of Elections voted 2-1 Tuesday evening against requests from the towns of Blowing Rock and Boone for satellite voting locations. Boone had requested for a one-stop location on campus.
Board member Stella Anderson, the lone dissenting member on the vote, had suggested at the July 21 meeting that the board reach out to the county’s four municipalities and invite them to make recommendations to extend an early voting location that would be convenient to voters.
“I did this because it’s important for this board to be responsive to the voters’ wishes, but specifically I did this in regards to the municipal election,” said Anderson. “Recognizing that statutes mandate that municipalities pay for costs of elections, that if they would like early voting to be extended, convenient for their participating voters, that that should weigh heavy in this board’s exercise in discretion.”
She also said the board should have a compelling reason not to honor the requests of the towns.
Anderson pointed to the satisfaction of Blowing Rock voters with a previous one-stop location.
“Recognizing something that is appreciated by voters and convenient for voters, I would hope we could be in agreement that for this municipal election we would have these two satellite sites,” said Anderson.
Chairman Luke Eggers countered her claims with what he said where issues with integrity.
“On the surface, that sounds like a great idea,” Eggers said. “But the more I thought about it, what got me was we are reaching out to the candidates and letting them have a say. It would be the same thing if we went to the general election and asked the county commissioners, ‘Where do you want a site?’”
Eggers said the 2013 plan would suffice in having the room at the county administrative building, and that would be big enough to accommodate the one-stop voting.
“Secondly, I don’t like handling over authority of this board,” said Eggers. “Our governing oversight board is the state. It is set up that way as not to be influenced. I don’t think it’s fair to let incumbent candidates have a say in a resolution when running candidates do not.”
Anderson was steadfast in her reasoning why one-stop voting should be extended if the municipalities want it.
Eggers said he is trying to keep the integrity of the elections.
Anderson said it wasn’t about the candidates, but Eggers countered that it was candidates who made the resolution.
“In regards to the placement at ASU’s campus and student union, I’d like to remind the board that we went down this road in the fall of 2014,” said Anderson. “We had a court order to establish early voting on ASU in recognition of discrimination of particular voters.”
Eggers reminded Anderson that case was stayed by a higher court and is still waiting to be heard.
Anderson said she is worried about the implications that would come from disenfranchising a particular set of voters.
During public comment, residents let the board know of their disapproval.
In 2008, Harvard Ayers said he was a member of a group of faculty members who started a “get out the vote” effort. They registered 3,500 students by going around classes. By Election Day, approximately 10,000 students had voted.
“They voted heavily Democratic,” he said, “65-35 for president.”
“It’s very clear you are trying to keep these students from voting,” he said. “It’s a clear case of disenfranchising.”
Karen Hamby cautioned the board about once again entering the national spotlight by denying a voting location at ASU.
“I wanted to remind you what’s coming,” she said.