N.C. Board of Elections expected to hear challenge for WSSU early voting site

N.C. Board of Elections expected  to hear challenge for WSSU early voting site
January 28
00:00 2016
BOE member Fleming El-Amin (left) and Ken Raymond

Todd Luck

The Chronicle

The NC Board of Elections (BOE) will soon be determining if Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) will have an early voting site as it hears a minority plan from local BOE member Fleming El-Amin.

El-Amin, the three-member board’s sole Democrat,  was the one “no” vote when the BOE approved early voting sites earlier this month. He submitted an alternative early voting plan to the state that included the 11 sites that were approved by the Forsyth BOE, plus one more: the Anderson Center at WSSU. The alternative plan also contains Sunday hours for Souls to the Poll, a popular tradition where black churches get their congregants to vote on Sunday. The N.C. BOE is expected to hear the alternative plan soon.

The Anderson Center was an early voting site from 2000-2012. When Ken Raymond became the chair of the Republican majority of Forsyth BOE in 2013, he stated that he couldn’t allow a site at Winston-Salem State University because he said in 2010 there was an election law violation there.

In 2010, Raymond – who was a poll observer at the Anderson Center – sent a complaint to the Forsyth BOE stating that a student told him and a poll worker she’d gotten extra credit for voting. The complaint stated that Raymond asked the student what class this was in and she responded it was in her English class. It said Raymond asked what the name of her professor was and she responded “Gardner.” It goes on to state that Raymond could find no professor by that name and believed the student lied about the professor’s name. He never found the professor who supposedly gave the extra credit.

Raymond alleges that the extra credit constitutes exchanging something of value for a vote, which would be a felony under North Carolina law.

“The number of student voters was noticeably higher and I believe that’s due to the students being given class credit for voting,” said Raymond in his complaint. “This is clearly a violation of state law.”

The Forsyth BOE of the time, however, disagreed. In 2010, the BEO, then chaired by Democrat Linda Sutton, determined unanimously that there was no violation because the complaint did not allege that anything of value was exchanged for the students voting for a particular candidate or a particular party.

Sutton, a field organizer for Democracy North Carolina, said that it’s not illegal to encourage people to vote.

“That’s different from giving someone a good grade for voting for a candidate, that was not the complaint,” said Sutton, who also doesn’t believe WSSU should be denied an early voting site now.

In a letter to N.C. BOE chair Joshua Howard about his alternative plan, El-Amin argues that not only is it unfair to exclude the site because of the alleged 2010 incident, but that the site would be beneficial to the community.

“The Anderson Center serves voters from several communities beyond the University and provides an ideal location for senior citizens in the area, Salem College students, Salem Baptist College in addition to the Reynolds Park Road residences,” it reads.

In the letter, he also pointed out that there were 1,000 total signatures gathered between two separate petitions in support of an early voting site at the Anderson Center, and that during a standing room only crowd where the board approved the early voting site, there were numerous public comments in support of the site. This included WSSU Student Government Association President Kyle Brown who said that the lack of an on-campus site impeded students’ ability to vote.

El-Amin said he’s hopeful the state board will be receptive to restoring the site. “My hope is this thing can be resolved so we can go ahead and move forward and give students a chance to vote like they should,” he said.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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