State elections director OKs Legends
by Kellen Short
Kim Strach, executive director of the State Board of Elections, said it was her understanding that the entertainment venue met accessibility guidelines for disabled voters -- and that the state board has no further authority to question the Watauga County board's choice.
"The only role that this agency plays in reviewing a voting place is to determine whether it is accessible to disabled voters," Strach wrote. " ... Since the site does satisfy requirements for accessibility, this agency has no authority to take further action on this matter."
Watauga County Elections Director Jane Hodges has confirmed that the location on Hardin Street would meet Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines, Strach said.
Strach noted that state statute gives the power to determine voting place locations to county boards.
The letter did note, however, that the location has been subject to flooding in the past and that the county board should have an alternate plan if flooding occurs or the facility loses electricity on Election Day.
"This agency strongly encourages county boards to study all options for accessible voting locations in the context of a facility's availability, proximity to the largest numbers of voters in the precinct, parking and accessibility," Strach wrote. "County boards should not hesitate to consider changes to voting locations if an alternative location can better serve the public."
The Watauga County Board of Elections voted 2-1 on Sept. 4 to move the polling place from the Plemmons Student Union to Legends, bucking recommendations from Hodges and the ASU Student Union director.
Chairman Luke Eggers and Secretary Bill Aceto voted in favor of the move despite the arguments of board member Kathleen Campbell, who said the Linville Falls Room in the new Student Union addition would be superior.
The State Board of Elections also approved polling place changes for the New River 3 and Meat Camp precincts, according to a Sept. 10 letter provided by the Watauga County Board of Elections staff.
The letter states that the shifts from the National Guard Armory to Mutton Crossing and from Green Valley School to the Meat Camp Volunteer Fire Department have been "received, reviewed and approved by this office."
The letter states than an accessibility survey showing ADA compliance of the new locations must be sent to the state board.
The letter also approves a request to have Seven Devils voters cast ballots at Seven Devils Town Hall for the upcoming municipal election.