(pictured above: Fleming El-Amin sits on the three-member Board of Elections.)
Some Forsyth County residents are fuming about a proposed early voting plan that they say is unkind to Democratic-friendly, minority communities.
The plan was approved last month by all three members of the Forsyth County Board of Elections, including Democrat Fleming El-Amin. It calls for 10 early voting sites in October – Old Town Recreation Center, Sedge Garden Recreation Center, the Mazie Woodruff Center, South Fork Recreation Center, Polo Park Recreation Center, the Kernersville Senior Center, the Clemmons branch library, the Lewisville branch library, Walkertown branch library and the Board of Elections headquarters downtown.
Only the Mazie Woodruff Center off Carver School Road sits in a vastly African American community, and critics say the racially diverse south side of the city is altogether ignored.
El-Amin is defending his vote. He says the other alternatives that were considered would neither have included a Sunday of early voting nor any non-suburban early voting sites.
“Given that there would be no inner-city voting besides the Board of Elections with the first plan, by all means, (the current plan is) a good plan,” El-Amin said. “Is it the best plan? By no means, but it is better than what the chair (Republican Ken Raymond) had proposed.”
El-Amin said he presented two options to the Board of Elections, one that included an early voting site at Winston-Salem State University’s Anderson Center and another that included a site at the Winston Lake Family YMCA. Both El-Amin and county staff included the Southside branch library in initial plans, but none of the three sites made their way into the current proposal.
“I was trying to maximize inner city and density over just geography. That’s my priority. Especially when it comes to heavily populated African American areas, senior citizens and the youth,” El-Amin said of his initial proposals.
Carolyn Highsmith, vice president of the New South Community Coalition and a one-time City Council candidate, has taken issue with the plan, even publicly expressing her disapproval on El-Amin’s Facebook page – an action for which she later apologized.
Highsmith said she is dismayed by the plan – which is awaiting the OK of the State Board of Elections – but understands that El-Amin is outnumbered by two Republicans.
“I wasn’t attacking him personally, but I was upset at the fact that the Board of Elections dropped Southside Public Library as a voting site. It is a high-voting site compared to sending it out to the county where very few people would actually come out to vote,” Highsmith said. “It is a total waste of resources and another barrier to people voting.”
Linda Sutton agrees. The local organizer for Democracy N.C., was the chairwoman of the Forsyth Board of Elections when Democrat Bev. Perdue was governor.
“Southside would have been a better place. I am disappointed that they did not put a location in Southside because they said they were so concerned about covering all sides of the county,” Sutton said. “This plan is not a good plan that takes into account where the registered voters are.”
Susan Campbell, the chair of the Forsyth County Democratic Party, is pleased that one of the early voting days will be a Sunday, but she is not a fan of the proposed sites.
“My concern was making the voting sites convenient to where the voters actually are,” she said. “You have the density in the inner-city and because of that, I am surprised and disappointed that they took away Southside Library,” Campbell said. “They have made it really convenient for the Republicans (with) where they have placed the voting sites, and not convenient to the Democrats in the city, despite the way it looks on the map.”
Interim Forsyth County Board of Elections Director D. Lamar Joyner said he does not foresee any changes to the submitted plan being made by the State Board of Elections.
Early voting is slated to begin Oct. 23 and end Nov. 1.