WSSU to regain early voting?

Forsyth County Board of Elections (BOE) Chairwoman Susan Campbell tries to convince BOE Vice Chairman Stuart Russell of the virtues of having early voting at Winston-Salem State University during the BOE’s meeting on Monday, July 2.

WSSU to regain early voting?
July 04
02:00 2018

Will early voting return to Winston Salem State University and what will be the hours for weekend voting?

Those are among the questions still being considered by the Forsyth County Board of Elections (BOE) as they develop an early voting plan.

BOE Chairwoman Susan Campbell, a Democrat, asked to have the Anderson Center at WSSU as a site at the BOE’s meeting on Monday, July 2.  Anderson had been an early voting site from 2000-2012 until a Republican majority BOE chaired by Ken Raymond stopped using it. BOE Vice Chairman Stuart Russell, a Republican, said he needed to think about it. He felt the Anderson Center is too close to the early voting site at the BOE office in the Forsyth County Government Center.

“Why would we pick one that’s within a mile of the Government Center?” said Russell.

The traveling distance between Anderson Center and the BOE office is just under two miles, which can be a six minute drive but, for the many students who don’t have cars on campus, it would be an approximately 40 minute walk.

Campbell said encouraging students to vote was important and the center’s location on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive made it convenient to the surrounding community, especially if Business 40 closes for construction during early voting.

“It’s a corridor, to all these neighborhoods that everyone knows where the Anderson Center is,” said Campbell. “That really works well, not just for the students, but for the community.”

In previous years, dozens of residents have requested during BOE meetings for Anderson to be an early voting site. Two petitions in 2015 garnered more than 1,000 signatures asking for the site.

There were numerous potential sites that Russell suggested that Campbell did agree with like the BOE office, Mazie Woodruff Center and the Southside, Rural Hall, Clemmons and Lewisville Libraries. They agreed to use the VFW Post In Kernersville, in leu of the library there, and Campbell wanted to use Polo Park Recreation Center instead of Old Town Recreation Center.

Campbell wanted to add Miller Park Recreation Center, which Stuart was receptive to, and Brown-Douglas Recreation Center and the WSSU Anderson Center, both of which Russell said he wanted to think about.  This brings the total of sites to 11.

Picking sites has some additional wrinkles this year. Senate Bill 325 is now law after the Republican majority in the General Assembly overrode the governor’s veto, so BOEs must now open all sites from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. each weekday during the early voting period, which is now Oct. 17 through Nov. 3 with new requirements that all sites be open on the Saturday before Election Day. 

The new 12-hour days at all sites are far more expensive with 11 sties, which would usually cost $105,895, now costing $299,200. This added expense threatened to outstrip the BOE’s early voting budget, but county commissioners plan to vote on July 19 to add unused funds set aside for a second primary to the BOE’s budget for a total of $347,921. When the commissioners were briefed on the situation last week, several expressed dismay at the new requirements, with County Commissioner Vice Chairman Don Martin calling it an “unfunded mandate” from the state.

The new requirements also knocked out several potential sites, since they couldn’t be used on every required day. Both St. Paul United Methodist Church and the Kernersville Library had events planned during the first week of voting when the BOE office is usually the only early voting site open.

Anderson Center had one conflict that first week: WSSU’s massive homecoming activities on Saturday, Oct. 20, which includes a parade down Martin Luther King Jr. Drive that might interfere with access to other sites, too. Campbell proposed not holding early voting on that first Saturday. BOE members are considering the second Saturday, whose hours they can choose, and the last Saturday, whose hours must be 8 a.m.-1 p.m. or 8 a.m.-5 p.m. 

The BOE will meet to continue the discussion of sites and weekend hours on Tuesday, July 10 at 5 p.m.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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