SBOE lawsuit touches on key voting rights


The Appalachian Online

Kevin Griffin

Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens delivered vindication Monday to the many students and Boone residents who have fought to remove voting restrictions for college students.

By ruling that the State Board of Elections must pass a plan which includes an on-campus site, the judge has recognized that what has gone on over the past year has been unfair to students.

Still, even though we have been given this victory, it is worthwhile to consider the factors and events that have brought us to this point. Examining the sentiments expressed in the lawsuit and chain of events that brought about this decision is an excellent way of doing that.

The issue here involved two different early voting plans. One, supported by Watauga County Board of Elections members Luke Eggers and Bill Aceto, would not include a polling place in Plemmons Student Union. The plan put forth by Kathleen Campbell does include the on-campus site.

By any measure, the Campbell plan is superior. It includes all the polling places the Aceto-Eggers plan does, plus the on-campus site. While both plans exceed the required number of early voting hours, the Campbell plan beats the Aceto-Eggers plan 368 to 307, according to The Appalachian.

In the past, there have been concerns about rural voters. The Campbell plan does nothing to hinder rural voters and includes the exact same voting sites as its alternative, plus one.

The State Board of Elections has, by supporting the Aceto-Eggers plan, supported a plan that places a burden on university students particularly, as well as the school employees.

Appalachian maintains a significant presence in Watauga County. The percentage of students that make up overall county population is 34 percent – higher than for any other county with a UNC school, according to the lawsuit.

Unfortunately, political motivations have brought us to this point. It has been well-publicized in much of the country that conservative administrations have undertaken efforts to make voting more difficult for groups who would tend to oppose them.

In this case, that group is 18-to-25-year-olds.

The role that politics has played in recent decisions here in Watauga County can neither be ignored nor denied. The lawsuit alludes to an incident at a public meeting in March, during which Republican Party Chair Anne-Marie Yates congratulated the board for “reversing the previous plan that favored urban democrats.”

When all of this is taken into consideration, it becomes obvious that the state board of elections was wrong to approve the plan.

Of course, there is the chance that this might not be over yet. Though there has been no indication that the board of elections will do so, it is possible that the decision could be appealed.

Still, this week we can celebrate a victory for students’ voting rights. For now, it appears the voting rights of students will be protected.

Griffin, a junior journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.