[Image via hcpress]
Last week, the North Carolina State Board of Elections held a marathon meeting to resolve early voting disputes from the counties that emerged in the wake of a recent federal court decision. One of those counties was Watauga County, home to Appalachian State University, which has previously been the site of disagreements over early voting.
The dispute in Watauga involved whether or or not to continue using the Plemmons Student Union as the early voting site or switch to Legends, a concert hall just off campus. HCPress had the story:
The State Board of Elections spent half a day listening to early voting plans from more than 30 counties, including Watauga County, on Thursday.
For the Watauga County Board of Elections, the conflict surrounding early voting centers around the location of a site on the campus of Appalachian State University. Republicans favor early voting at Legends, and Democrats favor the Plemmons Student Union.
In a 3-2 vote, the State Board of Elections sided with the majority plan presented by Republican Bill Aceto with one contingency that the Legends site be secured by the Watauga County Board of Elections within five days, according to WRAL reporter Mark Binker, who covered the Raleigh meeting.
On Friday morning, Watauga County Elections Director Matt Snyder said that if Appalachian State University “doesn’t allow us to use Legends as an ASU early voting site, it would default to the [Plemmons] Student Union.”
“We have until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 13 to get a reply,” Snyder said.
That reply came yesterday – and Chancellor Sheri Everts declined to approve Legends as a polling place, which means voting will take place at Plemmons. From her letter:
That last sentence nicely captures the dilemma many non-partisans (including election officials) face when addressing questions like this; namely, that some election administration decisions are seen (passionately believed?) by observers to have partisan effects, whether or not that’s actually true. In this case, there seems to be a partisan split on whether or not to use a more centrally-located polling place for ASU students – a divide that the Chancellor decided to resolve in favor of her students. What was unusual in this case was that the Chancellor was given the authority to make that call; a luxury that other non-partisans (especially election officials) likely view with envy.
Focus now shifts to the conduct of early voting at Plemmons; in March’s primary, long lines at the site resulted in incredibly long waits that ultimately led to changes in how the site is organized (mostly involving NOT putting pre-registered voters and those seeking Election Day registration in the same line).
Given the contentious history in Watauga, I’d be very surprised if we’ve heard the last of this … stay tuned!