County Board of Elections split over location of ASU early voting site

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Ben Sessoms

With the 2016 general election quickly approaching, Appalachian State University is still without an official early voting site.

The Watauga board’s failure to come to a unanimous decision means the plan will be decided in September by the majority vote of the State Board of Elections.

Stella Anderson, Democratic minority board member, said her plan would put the early voting site in Plemmons Student Union.

The other plan, championed by Republican board chairman Bill Aceto, would have early voting taking place at Legends.

In an email to chancellor Sheri Everts sent in May 2016, Aceto suggested Legends as the voting site, arguing that the student union violates North Carolina law requiring a 50 foot buffer zone where no campaigning is allowed.

“The Board of Elections is open to considering any reasonable building which meets our statutory requirements, but based upon our experience with the student union layout, size and design, that building is not a workable location,” Aceto wrote in the email.

In a reply to Aceto’s email, Everts wrote that the student union would be a more viable location.

“Throughout the process into its conclusion, my office received no complaints and observed no violations with respect to enforcement of buffer zones,” Everts wrote. “In fact, many of the conversations I had personally were in praise of the process and in appreciation of the board’s efforts.”

Anderson said she felt it was irresponsible to require the university to use a revenue generating facility for early voting and expressed doubt that Legends would be able to accommodate the projected 6,000 early voters.

Similar issues came up during the 2014 general election, Anderson said, ending with a Wake County superior judge determining a plan without an ASU site unconstitutional. Anderson, who was party to the 2014 appeal, said she would not hesitate to sue again if the state board rules in Aceto’s favor.

Anderson said Aceto’s concern is a thin pretext for not wanting the site in the student union because of its popularity with young voters.

Aceto could not be reached for comment.

The Student Government Association’s director of external affairs Anderson Clayton said she is concerned about early voting at Legends.

“I see it as a form of student voter suppression,” Clayton said. “Every student should have the right to vote. It shouldn’t be restricted. That we are I think one of the most underrepresented groups in legislature today. For us to really realize that we have that voice, and we have that power. It’s something I want every student on this campus to feel.”