Watauga County Administration Building

Early ballots cast at the Watauga County Administration Building will be recounted on Nov. 6.

BOONE — Letters from Watauga County Board of Elections Chairman Bill Aceto and county attorney Four Eggers indicate they believe a single early voting site at the Watauga County administration building would meet requirements for the 2016 presidential election.

The Watauga County Voting Rights Task Force, a group of citizens affiliated with the local Democratic Party, on Aug. 25 issued a statement condemning the letters and recent actions as “deliberate voter suppression.”

The letters come after an Aug. 4 state board of elections memo advised that local boards would not be required to operate multiple early voting sites in the wake of a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that overturned 2013 voting law changes.

Among the voting provisions struck down was the shortening of the state’s early voting period from 17 days to 10 days. But the court decisions, according to the SBOE, also nullified a provision in the 2013 law requiring local boards to offer the same number of early voting hours during the shortened early voting period as was offered locally during the 2012 election.

“County boards will not be required to have additional sites, nor will they be required to have any additional sites open the same number of hours and days,” the memo from SBOE Director Kim Strach said. “However, we strongly encourage county boards of elections to be mindful of expected turnout and historical use of one-stop early voting in their respective counties.” Data indicates that 56 percent of voters this election will vote early, reducing Election Day lines, she said.

The memo advised that previously submitted early voting plans were invalid and outlined five options for local boards in submitting their early voting schedules. The first four options included extending previously submitted hours to the entire 17-day period; adding only the elections board or designated “in lieu” site for the additional week; adopting a new plan for the elections board site and additional sites; or adopting a plan using the elections board or “in lieu” site only, but with extended hours and/or weekend hours.

The fifth, Option E, was: “If a county board does not take action to vote on a plan, all one-stop early voting will take place only during regular business hours at the county board office and on the last Saturday until 1 p.m.”

Eleven days later, the three-member Watauga elections board held a special meeting to consider an early voting plan. While the plans considered by the board included a site at the administration building as well as several sites throughout the county, at issue was the location of a proposed site at Appalachian State University.

Aceto, the Republican chair, made a motion to approve his early voting plan that included a site at the Legends music venue, which local Democrats and ASU leaders opposed. Neither Republican member Nancy Owen nor Democratic board member Stella Anderson seconded, and the motion failed. Anderson’s motion for a plan with a site at the ASU student union also failed for lack of a second.

The board adjourned without approving a plan.

The Watauga board’s inability to agree on an early voting plan is not without precedent, and in recent years, 2-1 votes along party lines automatically sent the plans to the state board for review due to lack of unanimity.

N.C. General Statutes § 163-227.2(b) holds that one-stop absentee voters “shall appear in person only at the office of the county board of elections, except as provided in subsection (g) of this section,” which outlines procedures for adopting early voting plans at one or more sites in the county.

“If a county board of elections has considered a proposed plan or plans for implementation and has been unable to reach unanimity in favor of a plan, a member or members of that county board of elections may petition the (SBOE) to adopt a plan for it,” the subsection states.

In an Aug. 22 memo from Eggers to county Elections Director Matt Snyder, Eggers advised that if the state board did not adopt a plan for Watauga County and the elections office was required to serve as the county’s only early voting site, the county administration building — located in a separate building next door and at a different address — “would qualify as part of the the county board of elections office for the purposes of N.C. G.S. § 163-227.2(b).”

Eggers based his conclusion on the fact that the board regularly holds meetings at the administration building and that the building has been used for early voting and Election Day voting sites in the past.

In an Aug. 24 letter to Strach, Aceto said, “The Watauga County Board of Elections adopted neither a majority or minority plan for early voting in the upcoming election. As I read the statute governing this election, 163-227.2 in effect at this time means that early voting will occur only at the county board of elections office since no early voting plan was adopted for our county.”

But Aceto expressed uncertainty “as to whether a board member may still petition the state board for adoption of an early voting plan ... please advise me at your earliest convenience on the conclusion of the state board regarding their authority to consider these under the statute governing counties that failed to have any plan at all.”

Hedging his bets, Aceto added, “while I believe this default option would be adequate for Watauga County based on the data ... in the event the state board of elections feels it has the authority to set an alternate early voting plan based on these facts, I wanted to present my proposal in the event they do consider this matter.”

In its statement, the Watauga Voting Rights Task Force said its attorneys disagreed with Eggers’ assertion that the administration building could legally be considered as part of the board of elections office. The task force called on the county to fire Eggers as attorney for what it alleged was “intentional misrepresentation of the law for partisan purposes.”

“The bottom line is that the majority members of the Watauga County Board of Elections are willing to throw out every single early voting site for the November presidential elections in Deep Gap, Western Watauga, Blowing Rock and Meat Camp just to prevent those who wish to vote at an ASU student union site from doing so,” said the statement from Pam Williamson, on behalf of the group.

Garrett Price contributed reporting to this article.

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(24) comments

WatchBird

Republicans are putting party above country in local, state and national elections.
The American people are not stupid. This is going to backfire on the Republicans big time come November just like it did when Elizabeth Dole thought she could use the state and lie her way to get into the Senate a few years back!

The only way to get the Republicans to represent We the People is to vote them out until they understand that in our system of government, after the elections the ones who win are to represent and serve ALL Americans, not just their party or as how our Republican Representative put it: "....I represent those who voted for me."

Enough sour grapes when they lose! It is time to expect Public Servants to BE Public Servants rather than big fish in little ponds who represent their own and their cronies' interest.

Enough is enough with all this childish behavior. The Republicans need a good thumping come Election Day!

Citizen Truth

Yep it's a republican conspiracy. The democrats are as pure as a precious snowflake.

Both parties are a fraud and this partisanship is why the system is broken. Neither party is doing average Americans any favors. Corporations and lobbyists run this country and both parties sold out long ago.

Polecat1

I can see Watauga early voting now--The BOE makes no decision; Option E is in play. King St. is a 2-lane gridlock from the 105 by-pass to the Daniel Boone Inn. (Never mind the connecting intersections...). Erstwhile voters jam the sidewalks from the Admin building east to the Mast Store (which hasn't been able to open because no staff can get into town) and west to the Kangaroo (which parking lot is filled with idling vehicles unable to get either to or from the gas pumps). Woodhouse later emails Aceto to congratulate him on his success in ''protecting Party interests with regard to early voting''. Lots of Rs make a snap decision to check "I" or "D" or "G" on that ballot when and if they get one. November 9 dawns in a landslide for the Ds.
Way to go, BOE.

Nonya Binis

Fire the county attorney. We need one who knows the law and can represent Watauga County, not just bill aceto.

WatchBird

Great suggestion and a good start!

Oak

Can someone give insight about this issue. Is the concern that no one will be able to early vote in their area, or is the concern that there is not an early voting site on the campus of ASU? The way I see it is if there is early voting in the communities of the county, then those people have to either walk, drive, or ride to that location and vote. What's the difference if the ASU students have to do the same? If a person wants to vote, they will travel to do so. People out in the county travel to get groceries just like some ASU students travel to get beer. It seems to me this isn't worry about the right of people to vote early as much as it is to make it very convenient for the students at ASU. To be honest, I'm not so sure that I want some people to vote no more than I want some people to own a firearm. Do people vote based on their knowledge of the issues and the responsibility that comes with voting or do they just cast a ballot based on their party affiliation or the "convenience" of the voting site? Do some people own firearms because they just want to own one or do they genuinely know how to handle, clean, and store a firearm and the responsibility that comes with that ownership? My guess is the answer to both questions is "yes" and that is a scary thought.

Pam Williamson

Most of your questions have already been answered by a Judge who said there has to be a site at ASU. Are you aware that people from all over the county of all different ages use the ASU site? It was the most heavily used site in March. I think the more important question is why would anyone want to eliminate or relocate the site that brings in the most voters? Also, where do you think over 1,000 people who want to vote every day during early voting are going to park in downtown Boone?

Mr Smith

The concern SHOULD be that there will only be ONE voting site, but the emphasis is ALWAYS that there won’t be one at ASU. At last check, there are more voters in the county than there are at ASU. Of course, the liberals don’t want anyone knowing that.

WatchBird

IN America, all citizens have he right to vot and the point is to make it as easy as possible, not to try to make it as hard as possible for some people based on the opinions of others. Voting is a right.

By the way: not all students have cars and drink beer just like not all "good people" have to put others down to prove it!

barkleydog

I'm sorry; I'm just not that smart, but why isn't the county board of elections not doing everything in its power to encourage, support, and facilitate voting? Isn't that what democracy is all about? Is the board of election's job to hinder voting or promote it?

A concerned resident

"...county attorney Four Eggers said that his memo to Elections Director Matt Snyder was wholly intended to give the elections director guidance on how he could proceed if the state board of elections did not hand a voting plan down to Watauga and the county was forced to operate the bare minimum “Option E.”

Wow. Four Eggers wants to prepare Matt Snyder for the possibility that Watauga County could be "forced" to operate the bare minimum "Option E" - which mandates early voting only at the BOE office.

Option E is the desired CHOICE of Watauga County GOP. The two GOP BOE members adjourned without a plan. The state is not forcing the county into this - the Watauga County Republicans are forcing the county residents into this.

Rural voters will find it much harder to vote. But the real focus of the local GOP is to suppress the votes of those who attend and work at Appalachian. Voter suppression at this level is truly awful.

Pam Williamson

Leave it to County Attorney Eggers to blame the messenger instead of owning up to his actions to intentionally mislead county board members. He's right. This isn't the first time I have called him out. Hopefully it will be the last. This isn't the first time County Attorney Eggers has been caught with his hands in the cookie jar either. Remember when he got caught writing the letters to the State Board under his brother's name from his law office? And remember when he got caught trying to manage back-door negotiations with former SBOE member Paul Foley? Foley resigned. Four should too.

Southernfrustrations

" I am disappointed that some people take their partisan politics to a level of personal attacks.”
.....WHAT???? FUNNY (NOT), this is how republicans win their elections, personal attacks on minorities. EG: Trump, McCory, etc., etc.,

Mr Smith

The irony here is thick. When the democrats were in control, they manipulated the same as the Republicans are doing now! The same can be said in regard to the district realigning in 2003 and then in 2013. Hillary makes just as many snide remarks at Donald as he does to her. One extreme to another. It is no wonder that this country is in such a mess.

Pam Williamson

Leave it to County Attorney Eggers to blame the messenger instead of owning up to his actions to intentionally mislead county board members. He's right. This isn't the first time I have called him out. Hopefully it will be the last. This isn't the first time County Attorney Eggers has been caught with his hands in the cookie jar either. Remember when he got caught writing the letters to the State Board under his brother's name from his law office? And remember when he got caught trying to manage back-door negotiations with former SBOE member Paul Foley? Foley resigned. Four should too.

Lonnie Webster

Why is our county Attorney so involved in suppressing the Constitutional rights of Watauga County citizen's voting rights? Why are the local Republican leaders afraid of easy, convenient access to voting? When you have to cheat to win an election, what does that say about your ideas and commitment to public service? When did the family values of ethics, justice, professionalism and honor no longer matter to Watauga Republican leaders?

Mr Smith

Both parties should be ashamed of themselves.

Southernfrustrations

Both?

Nonya Binis

Matt Snyder is in Egger's pocket. All you have to do is hang out in the courthouse long enough and you'll see them huddled in the hallway talking or in the office. Watauga county needs to hire a new law firm that will represent ALL the people.

Nonya Binis

Eggers and Aceto are still actively engaging in voter suppression. This needs to be stopped.

Polecat1

I saw no local coverage concerning the email sent out from the NC Republican Party chair Dallas Woodhouse inviting local boards to comply with the Federal ruling to “make party line changes to early voting” by limiting the number of hours and keeping polling sites closed on Sundays.
Further, the email stated: “Our Republican Board members should feel empowered to make legal changes to early voting plans, that are supported by Republicans,” Woodhouse wrote in his email to board members. “Republicans can and should make party line changes to early voting.”
Woodhouse outlines several priorities for developing new early voting schedules:
Fewer early voting opportunities: Woodhouse suggests limiting early voting hours because the sites allow voters to use same-day registration – a practice the voter ID law sought to eliminate.
“We believe same-day registration is ripe with voter fraud, or the opportunity to commit it,” he wrote. “Same-day registration is only available during early voting. We are under no obligation to offer more opportunities for voter fraud.”
On Monday, the Mecklenburg County elections board voted to cut the overall number of hours from the 2012 election by 238 – despite calls from most of the speakers at the public hearing who called for increasing hours. The board’s Republican chairwoman said she’s “not a fan of early voting.”

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/election/article96179857.html#storylink=cpy


WatchBird

Still waiting for the proof of voter fraud!

Crickets!

Southernfrustrations

Still playing GAMES with VOTE-ING Rights and locations (R)??? Watch out for lawsuits! I'm sick and tired of having to go to a different location each time I go to Vote over the last few years. Get out and VOTE, and if they turn you away, ASK where you have to go, get directions, ask for a map, whatever you have to do, do it and VOTE.

WatchBird

When a political party places itself above everything else, it turns into a mess and in on itself. Winning is the only thing that matters to Republicans. That means playing with the right to vote because the only way they can win is to gerrymander, close and move voting sites, bar straight ticket voting, require voter ID when there has been no fraud, and then lie their socks off - about everything - and winning at any cost. It is their way or no way. The sad thing is they think that they cannot stop the 21st Century and do not care about vows of office, ethics, fairness or the fact that it is not a contest to become ruler of all, but to govern for all. Republican's scoff at the idea that they are Public Servants when in office. All the things that they complain and whine about the Democrats seems to be what they themselves do. The Republican Party has become the party of a bunch of little emperors with no clothes. The vote in November is a speeding train bearing down on them and they are pulling out all the stops in trying to stop it.

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