Watauga County Board of Elections passes measure to consolidate voting sites

Michael Bragg

The Watauga County Board of Elections adopted a resolution Monday that would consolidate Boone’s three current voting precincts into one, eliminating all but one of the voting sites used in the past.

This would include closing Plemmons Student Union as one of the voting sites, based on conversation in the meeting.

The board also passed a resolution to implement a new one-stop plan for the 2013 municipal elections, which could move the voting location to only the Agricultural Conference Center at 252 Poplar Grove Road.

Watauga County Board of Elections member Kathleen Campbell was the only member to vote against both resolutions.

“If you’re going to have a super precinct of almost 10,000 voters, you’re going to have to have more than one place to vote,” she said.

The North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting defines a super precinct as any precinct servicing more than 2,000 voters.

The crowd gathered in the meeting room expressed their dissent as the board voted on the resolutions.

The new consolidated precinct would combine close to 9,500 voters into one voting place, based on numbers read aloud during the meeting by Board of Elections Director Jane Hodges.

Hodges said that the last directive from the federal government was in 1999 and recommended the number of voters for any given place to be 1,500.

“The student union is more equipped to be the one-stop voting for 9,000 people than the agricultural center because they already have 7,500 people voting there,” Campbell said. “So what are another 1,500? That’s also the most centrally located place in the town, so if you’re going to change it why not put it in the student union? They want it to be very inaccessible.”

Chairman of the board Luke Eggers said that his main concern with having the student union as the location was security. Though no one at the university could confirm this concern, Eggers said that the board needed to be proactive.

Eggers said that he didn’t know and would not speculate on whether voter turnout would be negatively affected.

Junior political science major Ian O’Keefe was among the more than 50 citizens packed into the room to observe the meeting.

“I feel like I have just been attacked, like every student both at Appalachian and a lot of the people in the community have just been attacked today,” O’Keefe said.

Mayor Loretta Clawson was also in attendance at the meeting.

“We’ve worked so hard for so many years to have transparency, and I did not feel that today,” Clawson said. “I’m feeling very disappointed for the town of Boone, to see voter’s rights stifled. Personally, I’m very upset.”

Story: STEPHANIE SANSOUCY, News Editor & JOSHUA FARMER, Managing Editor