Elections board weighs fall early voting options

Anastasia Powell is among those who would like this site at Industries for the Blind to be used for early voting.

Elections board weighs fall early voting options
June 09
10:15 2016

Photos by Todd Luck



The Forsyth County Board of Elections (BOE) is closer to early voting plans for the General Election after its meetings on Monday and Tuesday.

Board members Fleming El-Amin, Stuart Russell and Chair Ken Raymond all came up with their own 15-site early voting plans. They discussed the sties, determining that some, like Winston Lake YMCA, wouldn’t work because of scheduling conflicts with activities there. A site at St. Paul United Methodist Church is being considered as an alternative for that area.

Another site that was discussed is Industries for the Blind (IFB). It was on both El-Amin and Russell’s lists. Raymond had concerns about issues that BOE staff found with parking and finding a proper place for campaigners to electioneer.

“It’s a unique population with physical challenges we should be sensitive to,” said El-Amin. “I have a lot of respect for the work they do there.”

Anastasia Powell, IFB Adult program coordinator, is spearheading the effort for the site.

“It’ll make voting accessible to people who are blind and visually impaired,” she said.

Powell said people who are blind and visually impaired like her can’t drive and have to rely on public transportation or family and friends to get someplace. Having an early voting site at IFB would eliminate issues with transportation that make voting challenging. IFB has about 300 employees who are blind or visually impaired and serves many others with its services for that community.

Early voting machines have a mode for blind and visually impaired voters. It has a computerized voice that they hear through ear buds, guiding them through the process and instructing them on which button to press for their choices. On Election Day, the machines are available at every precinct. Blind and visually impaired voters can also have a poll worker help them with voting. IFB is offering its training and development multipurpose room for an early voting space, located at the entrance to the IFB Optical Center. Powell said IFB will hold some of its normal activities in a different space and arrange for different parking for IFB costumers to accommodate voters.

During the public comment session on Tuesday, two Wake Forest University students, Zachary Bynum and David Ajamy II, asked the board to remember college students during early voting. Ajamy said that there was a polling station next to campus but other colleges like Winston-Salem State University aren’t as lucky.

The Anderson Center at WSSU was an early voting site from 2000-2012 but hasn’t been one since. The board approved an early voting site plan for the March primary by a 2-1 vote without it. El-Amin appealed to the N.C. BOE with a plan that included the Anderson Center and Sunday voting and was denied. He’s said that he’s willing to appeal again if Anderson is not included.

During the appeal to the state board in February, WSSU Student Government President Kyle Brown talked about how freshmen aren’t allowed to park on campus. It’s more than a 30-minute walk to get to the closest early voting site at the downtown BOE office. He said he gave nearly 100 students a ride to the poles himself in 2014.

WSSU freshmen not having access to their own vehicles is unique among the city’s large colleges with student residents. Salem College and UNCSA both allow freshmen to park on campus. Wake Forest University has an off-campus freshmen lot that students are shuttled to and from.

Sites that all the board members agree on are the BOE office and Kernersville Senior Center/Library along with the Clemmons, Southside, Walkertown, Lewisville and Rural Hall Libraries. Other sites being considered include St. Peter’s World Outreach Center, Malloy/Jordan East Winston Heritage Center,  Forsyth Tech’s Bolton Street campus and Tobaccoville Community Center along with Sedge Garden, Miller Park, Old Town, South Fork, Sprague Street, Polo Park, Brown Douglas and Sims recreation centers.

The next BOE meeting is Tuesday, June 14 at 11 a.m.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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