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Originally published: 2014-02-18 15:14:59
Last modified: 2014-02-24 10:45:35

One-stop voting locations to be discussed Feb. 24

by Allison Haver

Watauga County citizens will have the opportunity to voice their opinions and share their ideas about potential one-stop locations for the 2014 elections.

The Watauga County Board of Elections met on Monday to schedule a citizen informational workshop on potential one-stop sites.

The informational session will be held on Feb. 24 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the commissioners' boardroom in the Watauga County Administrative building, which is located next to the courthouse.

Chairman Luke Eggers said the workshop would be a two-hour drop-in session for people to come in after work and look at proposed one-stop sites on a map and approach the board members to pitch their own proposals or comment on other sites.

"People can come to us and share their ideas and we can show them what we were thinking," board member and lone democrat Kathleen Campbell said.

Campbell presented some possibilities that she believed would best serve everybody.

Her proposed one-stop sites included:

- Meat Camp Fire Department for North Fork, Meat Camp and Bald Mountain precincts: 2,574 active registrations as of Feb. 6, 2014; 7 percent of voting population

- Cove Creek Fire Department for Cove Creek, Beaver Dam, Laurel Creek and Brushy Fork (split) precincts: 5,562 registrations at 15 percent

- Foscoe Fire Department for Watauga, Shawneehaw and Beech Mountain precincts: 3,486 registrations at 10 percent

- Watauga County Courthouse, Linville Falls Room at ASU, and Town Hall in Boone for eight Boone precincts Boone 1, 2 and 3; New River 1, 2 and 3; Blowing Rock; Blue Ridge; and Brushy Fork (split): 22,268 at 62 percent

- Deep Gap Fire Department for Stoney Fork and Elk precincts: 2,088 at 6 percent

Campbell said she wanted to make people in Boone and out in the county happy.

"That was my goal to make everyone happy," she said and she then asked her fellow board members to consider her proposal.

Eggers and board secretary Bill Aceto did not disclose any proposals for one-stop sites of their own on Monday.

Campbell also motioned a proposal to change the public comment policy.

In August, which was the first meeting with Aceto, Eggers and Campbell on the board together, Aceto and Eggers, as the majority, approved a resolution that stated only written public comments would be allowed. 

The previous board did not have a public comment policy or a public comment period and Eggers said he favored the written public comment process that currently exists, saying that he's received "a lot" of emails and letters from constituents.

"I am pretty sure I know what everybody's opinion is, and I also feel like this is a good policy," Eggers said.

Campbell said she still felt changes were needed to the policy to allow for more spontaneous comment from the public.

"I don't think its enough to say we have read peoples emails and we know the opinion of the people of Watauga County," Campbell said.

"We should allow people to voice their opinions," she said. "People can say what they want and it makes them feel better and hopefully we get some input out of it."

Eggers and Aceto both expressed openness to allowing a public comment period at the end of each meeting.

Eggers motioned to "table the proposal" until the next meeting "to give time to think about what we (the board) want from this."

"Public comment is very important," Aceto said, adding that the comment would be better if it were restricted to "new information and not old information" already discussed and voted on by the board.

Campbell responded promptly that the board should not control what people say.

Campbell also said that she wanted to ensure that a public hearing be held and advertised before any precincts are established, relocated or combined.

"Precincts shouldn't be arbitrary moved with out discussing with public first," she said.

Around ten people spoke during an informal public comment session at the end of Monday's meeting.

Campbell requested the public comment session to serve the individuals who would not be able to make it to the Feb. 24 workshop.

Those who spoke said they appreciated the pleasant tone and openness that members on the board displayed.

They also stressed the importance of public comment not just for the board to hear but for other Watauga citizens to hear as well.

Democrat operative Pam Williamson mentioned that those who live and work on campus of Appalachian State University merit having the convenience of two one-stop locations on the campus.

Williamson suggested the Linville Falls Room in the Plemmons Student Union, which was proposed last year and recommended by officials at ASU, to compliment the current Legends location.

"Not having another place at the ASU campus to vote is a partisan move to disenfranchise voters. That's the way I see it," Williamson said.

A couple of ASU students came forward and also said that having one-stop voting sites located on campus would be the most beneficial.