Elections board talks early voting
by Allison Haver
The Watauga County Board of Elections held an informal, drop-in session for the public to discuss potential early voting sites in Watauga County for the primary election in May.
The public workshop, organized by the Republican members of the board, took place in the commissioners' boardroom located on West King Street and was scheduled from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Board members made themselves available by answering questions and listening to suggestions or thoughts from those who attended.
Maps were provided on tables and an easel for attendees to reference the different voting districts and the potential schools, governmental buildings and fire departments that may house a one-stop polling precinct in the county.
Thumbtacks were also offered for the workshop attendees to pinpoint their suggestions of one-stop voting location.
The workshop was announced during February's board meeting last week to permit public input before the selection of early voting sites.
During the February meeting, board member and lone Democrat, Kathleen Campbell, said that new legislation restricted polling places from being located at privately owned facilities such as churches, and schools, and the board must utilize the hours of voting operations set by the general assembly and come up with its own plan for voting.
The new law requires counties to provide the same cumulative total number of early voting hours each county offered for the May 2010 primary.
In 2010, Watauga County had a cumulative total of 272 hours including 113 hours at the Watauga County Board of Elections office; 89 hours at the Agricultural Conference Center; and 70 hours at the Plemmons Student Union.
Campbell offered her own suggestions regarding potential one-stop proposals during the board's last meeting.
Her proposal included seven early voting sites spread throughout the county with three of the sites located in Boone, where the majority of registered voters reside.
Chairman Luke Eggers and board secretary Bill Aceto did not offer any proposals of their own at that meeting or during the workshop on Monday.
Aceto said he wanted to wait until after he listened to the public at the workshop and read all the letters he has received before formalizing an opinion on where early voting sites should be located.
According to Aceto, about 90 percent of the comments he received during the workshop were in regard to having a location at Appalachian State University's student union.
"A lot of folks I've talked to work at ASU and would like to see a location at the ASU student union," he said."
The state must receive unanimous resolutions for one-stop locations by March 14, meaning the board must decide on locations for the primary election during its next meeting.
The Watauga County Board of Elections next meets on Wednesday, March 5, at the commissioners' boardroom in the Watauga County Administrative Building on West King Street.