Friday, October 24, 2014

Watauga Vote-Suppressors Have a Lonely Week

We listened in to the teleconference conducted by the State Board of Elections (SBOE) on Wednesday afternoon, the one when they voted 5-0 to place an Early Voting site in the Appalachian State University Student Union.

Not once during that short meeting did anyone say words like these: "What does the Watauga County Board of Elections want?" "Has anyone asked Chair Luke Eggers for his opinion?" "Does Bill Aceto agree with this?"

Eggers and Aceto were never mentioned, nor were their preferences either inquired about or catered to. Oh Chairman Eggers had certainly expressed an opinion, preferring sites as far removed from the Student Union as one can get without leaving the campus. But the Republican members of the SBOE were clearly done with seeking the opinion of the Two Amigos.

And why not? The Majority of Two on the Watauga County Board of Elections have implicated the SBOE in unconstitutional acts of voter disenfranchisement, have caused a legal shitstorm that may set precedents across the state for ballot access, have made it much more difficult for the SBOE to claim non-partisan reasoning for their administrative actions, have provided a consistent and debilitating series of scandals and unfortunate revelations since they took control in August of 2013.

Anne Marie Yates & the iPhone camera
Meanwhile, Republican Party Chair Anne Marie Yates still likes harassing student voters much more than trying to win their votes, so she was busying herself yesterday taking photographs of any student she saw in the Student Union wearing a candidate T-shirt, alleging illegal "electioneering" inside "the polling place," which under this present regime is the entire Student Union, a very large building of three floors where all sorts of activities go on all the time and where hundreds of students are buying coffee, gabbing, studying, and hanging out, and some of them -- gasp! -- may be wearing a candidate T-shirt or sporting a campaign button on a backpack, but otherwise doing nothing that fits the definition of "electioneering." But Anne Marie Yates filed an official complaint about it. She apparently wants to decree that any student wearing an offending T-shirt must disrobe before entering the Student Union.

Where was she when I voted yesterday morning? Because I must now confess that I was wearing two different candidate buttons when I went into the voting enclosure to do my duty, and I would have proudly posed for her camera. Because there's not one thing anyone on this green earth can do about a voter wearing whatever campaign swag he or she pleases when he or she goes to vote. And there's nothing wrong with a student wearing a candidate's button to the coffee shop.

Republicans just can't stop themselves from their divinely inspired primary purpose on earth: blocking other people from exercising their rights.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Today's Early Voting Numbers reported by the High Country Press:
Plemmons Student Union at ASU – more than 700 early voters
Blowing Rock Town Hall – 78 early voters
Meat Camp VFD – 39 early voters
Deep Gap VFD – 37 early voters
Western Watauga Community Center – approximately 60 early voters
Watauga County Administration Building in downtown Boone – 591 early voters
Do the math.

Guess Bill Aceto will be bragging again about how his administration of the Watauga County Board of Elections has actually increased voter turn-out. Lol.

Plus ... we hear that he and his cohorts will be featured again this evening on The Rachel Maddow Show.

I Voted and I Feel Great!

There was already a line outside the Price Lake Room in the ASU Student Union when we arrived at 7:50 this morning, and that line was still building when we left.

I haven't felt this good about voting in many years. My chance to strike a blow against voter suppression, against all the stupid and destructive revenge tactics of a political majority who obviously think they can stay in power if they can only squeeze the ballot box down to the size of a signet ring and wear it on their pinkies.

This long battle hasn't just been about college student rights, but I am proud that we stood up for those rights.

Meanwhile, in Raleigh, what happened yesterday? The State Board of Elections (SBOE), without a whisper of dissent, voted 5-0 shortly after 4 p.m. to place an Early Voting site in the ASU Student Union. Minutes later, the conservative majority on the state's Supreme Court put a stay on Judge Donald Stephens' ruling from last week that found unconstitutional voter suppression going on in Watauga County, rubber-stamped by the SBOE.

The Supreme Court put a stay on the ruling but did not order the Early Voting site in the Student Union closed, which has led to a good deal of confusion. We think it's all about keeping the ASU case from becoming legal precedent across the state.

The SBOE needed to do something to rehabilitate its tarnished image. One of its members had  been colluding with Stacy C. Eggers IV ("Four") since the summer of 2013, and that had been exposed. Then "Four" Eggers' manipulation of his little brother and the corruption of the local BOE was exposed. Then the SBOE, in rubber-stamping "Four" Eggers' manipulation, decided to make no public record of why eliminating Early Voting at ASU was justified under the law. Judge Stephens could only conclude what he did:
...the court can conclude no other intent from [the Watauga BOE's] decision other than to discourage student voting. A decision based on that intent is a significant infringement of students' rights to vote and rises to the level of a constitutional violation of the right to vote.
If that decision had remained at the Superior Court level, it would have been a very localized issue, but in appealing to the NC Court of Appeals, the SBOE opened the door to setting a precedent that could be applied elsewhere. Early Voting has been taken away from other college campuses. And the Supreme Court obviously jumped in when they did yesterday to send a signal that they're in no mood to see the ASU case set any precedents elsewhere in North Carolina.

The battle is over, but the war is not.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

BREAKING: Early Voting at the ASU Student Union

The State Board of Elections concluded 5-0 just seconds ago that Early Voting will take place in the Price Lake Room of the Plemmons Student Union, beginning tomorrow morning at 8 a.m.

There was no dissent.


The BREAKING news immediately down-column should have said that the NC Court of Appeals lifted its temporary stay on Judge Donald Stephens' order that an Early Voting site be restored to the campus of Appalachian State University.

The actual appeal on the merits will be heard later, probably next year.

Meanwhile, the State Board of Elections is holding a phone conference this afternoon at 4 p.m. to choose an Early Voting site on the ASU campus.

The Supreme Court has not taken up the appeal.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

BREAKING: Court of Appeals Upholds Judge Stephens

RALEIGH -- The North Carolina Court of Appeals has just upheld Wake Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens' order that an Early Voting site must be restored to the campus of Appalachian State University.

A Little Rabble Rousing Music for Tuesday Morning

Sunday, October 19, 2014

This Is a Joke, Right?

Vandals erect a billboard distorting Rep. Jonathan Jordan's record.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"Irreparable Harm" ... to Whom?

Let's put it this way: What else is power for? The State Board of Elections (SBOE) can save the sorry hide of a ruling politician or two by winning a court challenge to college student voting. And why shouldn't they win? They represent the current rulers of North Carolina.

So this happened: On Monday Chief Resident Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens ordered the Early Voting site restored to the campus of Appalachian State University, on constitutional grounds. On Thursday, "the state" (SBOE, represented at taxpayer expense by the Attorney General's office) appealed to both the NC Court of Appeals and to the NC Supreme Court to overturn Judge Stephens.
...the state asked ... for an emergency stay and appeal. The state’s argument is that [Judge] Stephens overstepped his authority by striking down the previously approved early voting plan and that changing the plan 10 days before the start of early voting will cause confusion and chaos for voters and elections officials. This, according to the motion, will cause “irreparable harm” unless the high court steps in to stop it.
Yesterday afternoon (Friday), the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued a temporary stay against the ASU site until at least Tuesday, ordering both sides to submit arguments.

"Irreparable harm"? Harm to whom? And how? You mean, if college students are allowed to vote unhindered by unnecessary barriers to their voting, that the Republic will suffer "irreparable harm"?

Yes, irreparable harm. Some politicians' asses are lodged in cracks, and the door might slam.

The argument that Judge Stephens "overstepped his authority" was the main line of reasoning trotted out by the lawyer representing SBOE at Monday's hearing. I was there. I was listening. (Also been waiting for the official transcript, so I could discuss the arguments verbatim, but now my hand's been forced:) The state's attorney said Judge Stephens didn't have jurisdiction to rule because plaintiffs didn't have standing to sue. Because and therefore, the SBOE's decisions are really immune from legal challenge. Got that? No one can, or ever has, challenged an SBOE administrative decision in court.

So what are people to do? Judge Stephens asked state counsel. Where are people to go when a state agency charged with providing equal ballot access to all clearly violates the rights of a class of voters, any voters? Where are they to go? "Under the unique circumstances in this case," Judge Stephens said in his subsequent order, "respondent's early voting plan for Watauga County is subject to judicial review by the Wake County Superior Court under N.C. Gen. Stat. 163-22(a)."

You can count on the question of the judge's jurisdiction being the hinge in the Court of Appeals on which swings the fate of Early Voting in Watauga County.