Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Watauga Board of Elections to ASU Students: We Really, Truly Don't Want You To Vote!

When Bill Aceto took a seat on the Watauga Board of Elections in 2013, he took an oath. I'm not talking about the NC Oath of Office that all elected and appointed officials take, the one that includes this language: "…I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the State of North Carolina, and to the constitutional powers and authorities which are or may be established for the government thereof; and … I will endeavor to support, maintain and defend the Constitution of said State, not inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States, to the best of my knowledge and ability; so help me God."

No, Bill Aceto took an oath administered by Stacy C. "Four" Eggers, Watauga County attorney and Republican puppet-master, and Anne Marie Yates, Watauga GOP chairwoman, that he would never give up the partisan goal of preventing, discouraging, hobbling, and otherwise hampering the voting rights of Appalachian State University students.

Now, as Chair of the Watauga County Board of Elections, Bill Aceto lived up to that oath last night, as he's lived up to it at every important juncture during the last three years.

As recent as this past winter, when the board was setting the Early Voting plan for the spring primary elections, Aceto was dead set against any Early Voting site on the ASU campus. He got his ears pinned back over that one by the State Board of Elections. Those Republicans, still smarting over the Watauga lawsuit which forced the return of Early Voting to ASU the previous fall, told Aceto to put early voting at the Student Union. That Early Voting site in March attracted more voters than all the other satellite sites combined and even significantly more voters than the primary courthouse site as well.

So since that experience, Aceto has retreated strategically to anywhere but the Student Union. Because, after all, that's where all the students go at least once a day, which would be far too convenient for them. On that rampart, Aceto made a spectacle of himself last night.

BOE Meeting Last Night
At 10 a.m. yesterday morning, Aceto put out to his fellow Board of Elections members a pompously titled "Findings of Fact of the Majority of the Watauga County Board of Elections," with 92 enumerated reasons why the ASU Student Union will not do as an Early Voting site. I don't believe Bill Aceto wrote this document. I believe it reveals the exquisite, lawyerly dictation of Four Eggers.

At any rate, and after the two Republicans on the board had voted to exclude the ASU Student Union and place the Early Voting site at the more peripheral Legends night club, Stella Anderson, minority (Democratic) member of the board, proceeded to demolish -- point-by-point, calmly, and devastatingly -- the "facts" in Aceto's wad of paper (which, incidentally, the public never got to see, though Anderson obligingly read portions aloud as she dismantled their fictions and their logic).

Anderson ate Aceto's lunch. She cleaned his clock. She mopped the floor with him. She drank his milkshake. She did it without raising her voice or pounding the table. Aceto sat there and took it, occasionally looking like a whipped puppy, saying he would change the language of this or that point among his flaming 92 points, occasionally widening his eyes like the proverbial deer in the headlights. The audience -- and it was large, considerably larger than the 50 people the Watauga Democrat reporter said were there -- laughed at Aceto, laughed at his prevarications, snickered at his partisan panties, stained and fully revealed.

Jaylyn Howard, president of the ASU SGA, could clearly see what Bill Aceto is all about. The many other students from ASU could see what he's all about. The representatives of the local NAACP could see it. The former mayor of Boone could see. The many citizens there to urge an Early Voting site at the ASU Student Union saw the rank motives, the stubborn partisanship, the naked exercise of unconstitutional power. We all see you, Bill Aceto.

The Other Republican
Nancy Owen
Nancy Owen, the other Republican on the board, enacted her part as a mere tool. More accurately, she was a mute stump. She said almost nothing. Her yes vote for Aceto's Early Voting plan was inaudible, and I was sitting in the front row. The only thing I heard her say out loud was that she had not read Aceto's "Findings of Fact," when Stella Anderson began to dismantle them.

Nancy Owen had not read what Aceto titled "the Majority" opinion. Which was just as well, because there was never a vote taken on his fictional "Findings of Fact." Having never read them, Nancy Owen would have indeed been exposed had she voted to accept them as "fact."

Her body language last night said, "Please, God, let me be somewhere else!" She asked no questions. She made no comments. She did not come to Aceto's aid when Anderson leveled the imaginary castles that Four Eggers had constructed.

In other words, Nancy Owen was the perfect utensil. She was there to cast a vote, and she did that.

What Happens Next?
Because Aceto's Early Voting plan passed 2-1, under North Carolina law, the State Board of Elections must now consider both Aceto's plan and a minority plan submitted by Stella Anderson. That meeting of the SBOE will likely be in August or September. The last such meeting, when Aceto's ears got pinned back, was done as a teleconference.


Regarding Student Union vs. Legends, the local BOE must send a letter to Chancellor Everts requesting the Legends building. (Everts is already on record favoring the Student Union.) The BOE letter to Everts must arrive ASAP, because the request has to be made 90 days prior to the start of early voting. The Chancellor has 20 days to respond. If she does not respond within 20 days, Legends will automatically be the one-stop location. If she responds "negatively," she and the local Board will have to negotiate. If they cannot reach an agreement, the State Board will make the final decision.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Majority of one - Bill Aceto. What a fiction he presented last night!

This was my first visit to a BOE public hearing. Have never seen a public official as rude as Bill Aceto. Wow, is all I can say.

gercohenJoMC712 said...

The end result of this (whether the site is at Plemmons or Legends) is that young people will be even more motivated to vote -- and the key will be keeping them on task on the ballot at least through county commissioner, which will be on the front side of the ballot. These kind of tactics are usually counter productive.

J.W. Williamson said...

You bet, Gercohen! Totally counter productive. But they keep on doing the stuff that totally alienates the college students. You'd think that eventually they might pivot, start reaching out to ASU students with their own positive message -- "Vote for Republicans, because we..." ...whatever their message might be. Instead, they continually send the opposite message. Several of the 30 people who spoke during public comment last night warned the BOE members that their actions were harming their own cause ... to no effect.

They have their "script," and by Gawd, they're sticking to it!

Mike D. said...

The thrust of the complaint of this post, once the copious emotional language is peeled away, is that partisan politics are bad. I totally agree. But in order for you to claim that partisan politics are bad, you have to abstain from them yourself. The blog admins are lifelong partisan political activists from the other side of the aisle. So I just don't understand. When someone is willing to play the same game you play, you ought to be happy about it! You should celebrate that someone is still willing to dance your dance!

Anonymous said...

WTF, Mike D. I am not naive enough to think that Dems don't play partisan politics, but what local Dem similar partisanship would you like to point to as similar to that in the subject of this post. Gimme a break.

Jerry Wilson said...

When Democrats ruled the BOE Republicans rightfully denounced Democrat partisan politics. Now that Republicans rule the BOE Democrats rightfully denounce Republican partisan politics. This is the reason voters of both parties have lost faith in our system. No one wants to do what is right, just what serves their own interests.

Mike D. said...

Anonymous, I point no further away than the post itself.

Anonymous said...

you dumbocrats are just made because your ilk can't grab students and drag them to register and vote for your wants. Alot of students are being told to register and vote in boone then change back and vote again at their home county. Professors giving "extra credit" if the go vote and are given marked sample ballots. You are made because there isn't the traffic at legends that there is at the student union. You, williamson are the problem with your party.

Anonymous said...

"Professors giving "extra credit" if the go vote and are given marked sample ballots. You are made because there isn't the traffic at legends that there is at the student union."

WHO is doing this? What an inflammatory accusation! But of course, no proof...

To Mike D - the point of this post is to call out Bill Aceto for running roughshod over the BOE - and over voters in the county. Did he share his points with the other Republican on the board? Apparently not in time for her to read them. Can he order Appalachian to shut down its on-campus nightclub for 10 days or so? Probably not. Did Appalachian offer up its on-campus nightclub? Apparently not. What is the point of having public comment if you've drafted your plan in advance of public input? There is no point - it was a waste of time for all involved.

The Plemmons Student Union was the most used polling place in the last election. THAT's the issue the Watauga County Republicans have with it - voter suppression is their thing these days. Why? I'm not really sure as this is a very red county...

Bill Aceto made all sorts of inflammatory accusations - but had absolutely no proof/facts/data to back them up. I'm really sick of the Republican disdain for the truth - and I've actually NEVER seen an official from ANY party treat the public with the disdain and rudeness that Bill Aceto exhibited at the BOE meeting. He is absolutely not fit for public service.

Anonagain said...

Ah yes, Mike D - the old "false equivalence" rears its ugly head again. Republicans can't defend their positions. All they can do is say "The Democrats did it too" and then offer absolutely no examples or proof of their claims. The simple fact of the matter is that Republicans try, in every possible way they can, to make it harder to vote. From cutting the early voting period, to moving the polling places to remote areas (like when they insisted that Mt. Vernon church was located on a "major road"), to being openly hostile to ASU students instead of trying to win their votes. Democrats do no such things. Democrats generally want MORE people to vote. Shouldn't that be the goal, anyway? Are you really happy with 35% voter turnout?

Mike D. said...

I can only speak for myself, and I've not seen Mr. Aceto's list, but personally, I prefer to vote at the courthouse, and I would definitely prefer Legends to the student union. The student union feels very uncomfortable to me as a voting site. There are too many points of access. Perhaps I am a traditionalist, but I like a site where there is one way in, an obvious path to the polls. I want to see candidates on the sidewalk or in a parking lot talking to voters, not in alcoves and shadowy doorways that lead to back hallways which take me to the polls. It has a back-alley feel to it, like I am headed to a secret meeting or a speak-easy or an unlicensed physician or a fortune teller. Voting should be as public as possible. I want candidates on a public street corner, waving flags and hoisting placards at passing cars, not huddled in alcoves, seemingly selling watches from under their trench-coats. I worked to support a local Democratic candidate at the student union one time, and I felt like I was doing something wrong, just because of the physical environment.

Richard Tidyman said...

OMG. Are you serious?

Anonymous said...

Mike D., you have really jumped the shark this time. What a load of fantastical crap ... "shadowy doorways" ... "speak-easy or an unlicensed physician or a fortune teller." Good lord, man. You're straining for crazy comparisons to prop up an indefensible attempt to make voting more difficult for ASU students. Just be honest about it. You and Aceto are perfectly willing to reduce the numbers of student voters to protect your favored office-holders or promote your favorite office-seekers.

Anonymous said...

Having never been to 'a secret meeting or a speak-easy or an unlicensed physician or a fortune teller', I cannot tell you what that feels like. I do know that the 50' marker is now outside the building at the Student Union...out in the sunshine / rain / snow. Which, of course, means - at all three entrances to the building. There is, of course, only one entrance to the ROOM where voting occurs, with lots of signs on how to get there, making the path obvious. Glad you get to vote where you prefer, at the courthouse (the Annex during early voting, of course), but a lot of us old fogeys prefer to vote at the Student Union where there's more parking.

Anonymous said...

Good point anon! You, of course, would obviously prefer Legends where there is even MORE parking and a shorter walk from your car to the polling place!

Anonymous said...

I wear bifocals and hate the parking lot at Legends, which, last time I was on it, was full of pot holes and a darn near twisted an ankle. I also don't really want to stand in a long line out in the weather. And there WILL be lines (after all, what better way to make sure people in a time crunch don't get a chance to vote?)

We all know what this is about. We all know the end game. We're all tired of it. How about we make sure EVERYBODY has easy access to voting and stop trolling.

Anonymous said...

Legends has fewer parking spaces (62) than are reserved for the ASU Student Union site (70) and those 62 Legends spaces are shared with dorm resident vehicles. Legends sucks. It floods, has no windows, and the long lines of voters have to stand out of cover in bad weather. I know this because up until we got back the early voting site in the Student Union, I had to vote there on election day. Legends is a dog of a building, fine if you can drink beer to forget while you're in there that your feet are squishing on the carpet because it rained earlier in the day.