Board of elections to keep campus voting line outside unless severe weather occurs

The line at the App State early voting site will be outside unless severe weather occurs. 

The Watauga County Board of Elections passed a resolution Tuesday night to use the space outside of the App State Plemmons Student Union for the early voting line unless the director of elections deems the weather too severe. 

The resolution was passed in part due to a history of long lines at the campus voting site and COVID-19 concerns. 

The union’s Blue Ridge Ballroom saw 6,482 voters in the 2016 presidential election and over 4,700 people in the 2018 general election. 

Early voting turnout is already breaking records across the country this year. On Tuesday, Georgia’s first day of early voting, the secretary of state reported a record number of in-person voters with over 128,000 people voting. 

The first day for early voting in North Carolina is Thursday, and polls open at 8 a.m. Social distancing enforcement at the polls will force lines to stretch even further than normal. 

The Blue Ridge Ballroom has been prepped by university and election officials for the first day of early voting on Oct. 15. (Moss Brennan)

Board of Elections Chair Michael Behrent introduced a resolution that would move lines at all early voting sites, but the board would make daily assessments of the weather to see if the lines should be moved indoors. 

One member of the board disagreed with Behrent stating that “COVID-19 trumps weather” and that lines should only be moved inside due to severe weather including torrential rain or snow. 

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boone had nearly 10 inches of rain in October 2019. The lowest temperature recorded was 27 degrees on Oct. 25, 2019 and the month saw nine days of freezing temperatures. 

Behrent’s motion failed, and after discussion on what the board thought was severe weather, a new resolution was introduced. 

The new resolution moved the line at the campus voting site outside, but allows Snyder to use his discretion to move it inside if he thought there was going to be life threatening or severe weather. 

The resolution passed unanimously. 

At the meeting, Behrent read a letter from the Voting Rights Task Force that supported a line outside, but also wanted to move the line inside due to inclement weather — not just severe weather. 

Dalton George, a member of the task force and an App State junior, wrote the letter. He said the resolution that passed was a good middle ground. 

“I would’ve wished for provisions that would’ve allowed for a move inside for any sort of non-ideal weather,” George said. “Still, as long as the board commits to exercise the ability to move the line inside to protect voters during harsh weather, I think it’s a good start.” 

This year, there are six one-stop early voting sites in Watauga County.

  • App State – Plemmons Student Union – Blue Ridge Ballroom
  • Blowing Rock Town Hall
  • Deep Gap Fire Department
  • High Country Vacation Homes (Foscoe) 
  • Western Watauga Community Center
  • Watauga County Administration Building, Commissioners’ Board Room

One-stop early voting will run Oct. 15 to Oct. 31. Each voting site will be open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. every weekday.

On the first two Saturdays, the early voting sites will open at 8 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. On Oct. 31, the last day of early voting, the early voting sites will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.