Discussion continues on early voting

Discussion continues on early voting
June 16
09:15 2016



Several members of the public spoke in support of an early voting site at Winston-Salem State University during the Forsyth County Board of Elections meeting on Tuesday, June 14.

The BOE continued its consideration of early voting sites during its canvass meeting for the June 7 primary. During the comment session, several said the BOE should use the WSSU’s Anderson Center, which was an early voting site from 2000-2012.

“I would just like to point out that this is part of a broader concern with people at schools and universities who may not have vehicles, particularly schools that have a large residential population, should be taken into consideration to make sure that those people have easy access to the polls,” said Katherine McGinnis.

Freshmen at WSSU cannot park on campus and the nearest early voting site would be more than a 30-minute walk from campus. Other large local universities either let freshmen park on campus or shuttle them to and from an off-campus lot.

Forsyth County Democratic Party Chair Eric Ellison said the con-cern BOE Chair Ken Raymond voiced publicly about a WSSU professor giving extra credit for early voting wasn’t a valid reason to take away early voting from the site after he became chair in 2013.

“I really ask that you reconsider,” Ellison said. “If there’s a more substantive reason for denying the Anderson Center, please share that with the community and the public; they would like to know.”

Raymond, then a poll worker, filed a complaint about the alleged incident in 2010, but couldn’t find the professor who supposedly gave the extra credit. The Forsyth BOE at the time dismissed the com-plaint because nothing of value was exchanged for voting for a particular candidate or party.

“I think that you’re hearing a lot of voices from colleges that do have good access and hearing about all the concerns about the Winston-Salem State community, I think it’s very important to take that into consideration,” said Wake Forest Student Zachary Bynum.

BOE member Stuart Russell said that it wasn’t the 2010 incident that kept it from being included in 2014 early voting. He said he didn’t recall the incident coming up when they discussed the early voting plan back then, which passed unanimously.

The sole Democrat on the board, Fleming El-Amin, has said he was trying to reach census at the time. That changed during the discussion for March primary early voting when two petitions with a total of 10,000 signatures were presented to the board in support of the site.

Raymond assured attendees no one was trying to make it harder for college students to vote and that “we will see how that turns out” on the Anderson site.

“Access to voting for college students throughout the county will be fair and equal,” he said.

Of the three board members, El-Amin is the only one with Anderson and Sunday voting on his early voting plan. El-Amin has said he’ll appeal to the state if WSSU is not in the final plan.

Sites that all the board members agree on are the BOE office, Mazie Woodruff Center, Polo Park Recreation Center, St. Paul United Methodist Church, Kernersville Senior Center/Library along with the Clemmons, Southside, Walkertown, Lewisville and Rural Hall Libraries. All members also want to look into sites at Reynolds and Hanes Hosiery recreation centers. Staff said they were still trying to get in touch with Industries for the Blind on its request for a possible early voting site.

One site that’s attempting to get off the early voting list is South Fork Recreation Center. Recreation and Parks Director Tim Grant told the board that it has conflicts with two shows, the Gingerbread Festival and the Holly Jolly Crafts Show, happening simultaneously during early voting. When it was used in 2014, it had only one craft show during early voting and was able to eventually make accommodations. He said canceling the shows would be an $80,000 revenue loss for the center.

“We would respectfully ask for this board to con-sider another location for early voting,” said Grant.

Raymond and Russell were still interested in the site, asking staff to continue to see if a solution can be found. Russell said since it’s a public facility, they could compel it to host early voting, if needed. El-Amin said considering the revenue at stake for the center, he could no longer support an early voting site there.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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