The State Board of Elections denied Appalachian State University an on-campus early voting site in a bipartisan 4-1 vote Thursday in a meeting with the Watauga County Board of Elections.
The state vote was required due to the board’s inability to reach a unanimous vote when the plans were first proposed in March. Watauga board members Bill Aceto and Kathleen Campbell disputed their two respective plans, which included the same voting sites except for the addition of one in Campbell’s plan. Luke Eggers, who voted for the majority plan along with Aceto, was not present.
The approved majority plan’s one-stop early voting sites are the Watauga County Administration Building, Western Watauga County Community Center, Blowing Rock Town Hall, Deep Gap Fire Department and Meat Camp Fire Department.
Campbell’s plan included the same sites, with the addition of Appalachian’s Plemmons Student Union.
The county board also voted to increase hours during early voting, which in the past were from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The hours are now 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Campbell said 72 percent of voters in Watauga County voted at the site in Plemmons Student Union during the last election, which constitutes approximately 5,400 of a total 7,500 expected voters.
State BOE spokesman Josh Lawson said the “compromise was reached” because the on-campus site is often harder for rural members of the county, who may have to commute long distances to their precincts, to find.
Lawson said another advantage of the administration building site was that it allowed for longer hours.
However, according to the Watauga County Board of Elections One-stop Implementation Plan Forms, the materials used to present the plans during the meetings, the majority plan allowed for 307 total cumulative hours of voting, while Campbell’s allowed for 368.
“The points that were raised at the board meeting were that they wanted to ensure that members of the community that were not students could participate,” Lawson said. “The point was raised that [Campbell] believed that it constituted obstruction of student voting. We hope that doesn’t happen.”
Campbell said she feels the reason her plan was denied by the State BOE was political.
“The students and the staff and the faculty have repeatedly requested the site,” Campbell said. “There isn’t any real reason, except the obvious reason, that they don’t want the students to vote.”
Campbell said when speaking with Appalachian students, she’s found that many either are too busy or do not have a mode of transportation to get to their assigned site.
“My feeling is as public servants, it’s not our business to sit in judgment as to why they aren’t voting, but to make it easier for students to vote,” she said.
Campbell said she urges students to continue to vote, if at all possible.
Story: Laney Ruckstuhl, News Editor