|Eric Eller, far left, with Nancy Owen next to him|
in the middle
First, Republican member of the Watauga Board of Elections, Eric Eller, addressed a letter to AppState Police Chief Andrew Stephenson last July 8th, raising the specter that Black Lives Matter activists might threaten voters at on-campus voting sites.
When that letter became public on the AppState campus, an uproar ensued in which student government leaders demanded that Eller resign his seat on the BOE. Eller refused to resign. He also refused to apologize.
The other four members of the Watauga BOE, including the other Republican member Nancy Owen, sent a letter to AppState student government leaders apologizing for Eller's letter and disavowing that he spoke for them in expressing fear of Black students. The letter said in part:
... [Eller's] letter was not authorized by the Board of Elections. It was the action of one member acting on his own. The letter does reference “our board” and “our agenda” and is signed by the individual as “Member, Watauga County Board of Elections”. A reader could certainly infer that it was written on behalf of the Board. It was not.
Members of the Board of Elections are nominated by political parties, but we are then pledged to work in a non-partisan manner. When this letter was written, we were working together on plans for holding an election during a pandemic. To some of us, it seemed the better course not to publicize a letter with which we disagreed, but rather to move on. We knew that the writer did not speak for the Board, but we failed to make that clear to the public we serve. Avoiding conflict then has allowed for misunderstanding, suspicion and pain now. Our neglect was wrong, and we apologize....
Eller then doubled-down, herded fellow Republican Nancy Owen with him, and with the masterful lawyering of Nathan Miller, sued the State Board of Elections for approving a Watauga Early Voting Plan that put an early voting site in the AppState Student Union. How he and Owen have standing to sue is still an open question in this household, but the continued brilliance of the Watauga GOP in wooing the youth vote surpasses previous years of their feverish attempts to block, thwart, hobble, and otherwise discourage ballot access on the AppState campus.
Congratulations are in order.