Students to Raymond: ‘Uncle Tom!’

Students to Raymond: ‘Uncle Tom!’
September 22
10:00 2016

BOE denies WSSU voting site for 2016



The Forsyth County Board of Elections voted for a final time that there will no 2016 voting site at Winston-Salem State University, which was met with a racially charged chant from some attendees.

The Anderson Center at WSSU was a longtime early voting site before the board became majority Republican in 2013. Since then, it hasn’t been used as a site, becoming a point of contention at meetings as students, residents, community leaders and even elected officials have requested early voting return to the historically black university. The board’s sole Democrat, Fleming El-Amin, said 53 people have requested that Anderson Center be used for voting during the board’s public comment sessions.

The Tuesday, Sept. 20, BOE meeting was the last chance for WSSU to be a voting site this year, as Election Day polling place changes were considered. El-Amin proposed that Anderson Center be used as a voting site for Precinct 405 since construction on U.S. 52 is making it difficult to cross that highway to get to its current polling place at Sims Community Center. The measure was voted down 2-1 with Chair Ken Raymond and Stuart Russell, both Republicans, voting against it.

A chant of “Uncle Tom” rang out among the many WSSU students in the audience during the vote. Raymond, who is black, struck his gavel and told them to stop, saying he could clear the room as the chant grew loud enough to drown out the board members. El-Amin calmed the crowd down, telling them to not be discouraged, and to come out and take advantage of the Saturdays during early voting. The audience applauded and was silent as the board moved on to the next item and a security officer arrived.  The students in the audience promptly left after that.

At the end of the meeting, Russell said he was disappointed a “racial slur” was directed at Raymond, even if it was by black students. Raymond said he felt it was part on an attitude that all black people have to think alike and cannot be Republicans. Fleming said Raymond handled the situation well, not telling security to arrest anyone or make them leave, which he has the authority to do under statute.

The two Republican board members said they wanted to keep Sims as the polling site because N.C. DOT assured them that traffic access across 52 would return to normal after the construction, which is scheduled to end next summer. They said they didn’t see a reason to permanently move the site for a temporary situation. El-Amin said that doesn’t help the majority of voters in the precinct, who live on the other side of 52, in this election.

“It’s not going to be open for November at all,” he said.

El-Amin also argued that the board should listen to the overwhelming public outcry for the site, and that ”prejudice” against WSSU was the only reason he can think of for continuing to deny a voting site at Anderson.

The other site changes the board considered went off without incident. The board voted unanimously to keep First Alliance Church in Precinct 602 when a suitable alternate site couldn’t be found. The board voted unanimously to move the polling place in Precinct 709 from Ward Elementary School to Hope Moravian Church because it has better traffic access and parking.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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