Monday, August 15, 2016

What Will Eggers/Aceto Do with Early Voting in Watauga This Evening?

Watauga County is one of several key counties in North Carolina that will have show-downs at their boards of elections this evening (Watauga County Courthouse, courtroom # 1, 5:30 p.m., Monday, August 15).

Four Eggers
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, in throwing out the entirety of North Carolina's 2013 monster law, also eliminated the requirement mandating that counties have the same number of early-voting hours in 2016 as they did in 2012. One of the options offered, but not encouraged, by the Executive Director of the NC State Board of Elections was a "default" to a county Board of Elections office for all Early Voting.

That's exactly where Republican County Attorney Four Eggers was headed, with BOE Chair Bill Aceto in tow, and it may be what the Republican majority attempts to implement this evening. We'll find out. But there are serious impediments (and not just the tiny nature of the Watauga BOE office on the first floor of the courthouse).

1. The metal detectors at the entrance of the courthouse. The SBOE has informed the local BOE that it cannot force voters to pass through those detectors. Four Eggers appears to have been angling to get the detectors removed for the 17 days of Early Voting, which would certainly compromise the safe operation of the courts.

2. By statute, an adjacent room in the courthouse may be used for voting, but Four Eggers, wanting to avoid State BOE review and likely reversal at any cost, has surely attempted to declare the county's Administration Bldg. as an "adjacent room," when it is in fact and quite obviously a separate building. By statute, the adjacent room can only be used for the act of voting -- not for check-in -- so presumably, under Four Eggers' bright idea, voters would get their ballots in the county courthouse BOE office and then trek down the street to the Admin Bldg to vote.

That won't fly. The whole concept of "ballot custody" would be at stake. Walking down the street with an un-voted ballot would make Watauga County even more the laughingstock of the state than it already is.

Also Mecklenburg County
Many more early votes are at stake this evening in Mecklenburg County, where the chair of the BOE, Mary Potter Summa, is on record: “I’m not a big fan of early voting...." She's hinted that she'd like to cut Early Voting hours tonight, and she's criticized specifically an Early Voting site on the UNC-Charlotte campus. Sound familiar?

Perhaps the presence of a large crowd of angry voters will convince Ms. Summa that she should make voting more accessible, not less. It certainly worked in Guilford County last week.

Barring an outbreak of realism, however, the Democratic (minority) member of the Mecklenburg BOE must vote "no" on any Early Voting plan that cuts hours and then submit an alternative plan to the state BOE. The election officials in Raleigh must be accountable for any bad decisions made on the local level.

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