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, 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.