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El-Amin to appeal drop of WSSU as early voting site

El-Amin to appeal drop of WSSU as early voting site
December 24
00:00 2015
Photo by Todd Luck
Fleming El-Amin makes his case as Ken Raymond and Stuart Russell listen during last week’s meeting of the Forsyth County Board of Elections.

By Todd Luck

The Chronicle

The state will decide if Winston-State State University should have an early voting site after it was not included in the early voting plan approved by the Forsyth County Board of Elections on Thursday, Dec. 17.

The plan for early primary voting that was approved has 11 polling sites. Forsyth BOE chair Ken Raymond and secretary Stuart Russell, both Republicans, voted for the plan while Democrat Fleming El-Amin voted against it, vowing to submit a minority plan to the State Board of Elections for consideration. El-Amin’s plan contained Sunday hours for Souls to the Polls, a popular tradition where black churches get their congregants to vote on Sunday. But the main point of contention was a site that Raymond and Russell rejected: the Anderson Center on the campus of WSSU.

The Anderson Center was an early voting site assessable to students at the historical black university from 2000-2012.  In 2012, 3,369 votes were cast there. After Raymond became chair of the Republican majority Forsyth BOE in 2013, he opposed WSSU keeping its site. His objections stem from his time as poll worker in 2010, when he said he overheard WSSU students talking about a political science professor who gave extra credit for voting. Raymond said that’s illegal and he reported it at the time. N.C. General Statute 163-275 subsection 2, makes it a felony to exchange anything of value for voting.

“I cannot knowingly support a site where we may have another violation occur again,” said Raymond.

El-Amin objected saying that a five-year-old incident shouldn’t prevent the university from having an early voting site now. “At best, it’s unfair,” said El-Amin.

Raymond and Russell said they believed students could get to the polls without an on-campus site because the Anderson Center is close to other sites. The closest early voting site to the Anderson Center is the BOE’s offices at the Forsyth County Government Building downtown. While it’s within two miles of the Anderson Center and is only a 6- or 7-minute drive,  college students often don’t have cars on campus and freshmen living at WSSU aren’t allowed to have campus parking passes. According to Google Maps, the BOE would be a 33- to 40-minute walk from the Anderson Center. On Primary Day, students would need to vote at Sims Recreation Center, which is a 20-minute walk from the Anderson Center using the Salem Creek Greenway, according to Google Maps.

Several speakers mentioned their support for the Anderson Center site during public comments at the standing-room-only meeting. Two separate petitions with more than 500 signatures each, one for WSSU students asking for an early voting site and the other with numerous requests for inclusive early voting that included an Anderson Center site, were presented to the board.

WSSU Student Government Association President Kyle Brown, who traveled from Charlotte to be there, said the student petition amassed its signatures in only five days despite the school being on winter break.

The WSSU petition said the lack of on-campus voting had impacted “our campus tremendously and has decreased the voting turnout of our students drastically,” because some students haven’t been able to find transportation to polling sites.

“We have a lot of students who are politically active and politically involved and we would like to receive that voting site back on our campus,” Brown told the board.

After the meeting, he said he was very disappointed that the board approved a plan that didn’t include WSSU. A senior political science major, Brown said he’s not heard of any professor offering credit for voting during his time at WSSU. He said that the SGA has used their own vehicles to shuttle students to the polls since the loss of on-campus voting, but he knows some students who simply couldn’t get transportation to a polling site and weren’t able to vote.

Sunday voting and the WSSU site were the only points of contention on the plan. Russell had proposed nine early voting sites and El-Amin suggested 12, including WSSU. Raymond and Russell voiced concerns over whether there were enough voting machines for that many polling sites, especially if some of them broke down. When BOE Interim Director Lamar Joyner said there were enough machines for all the sites, including backups if any needed to be replaced, Raymond and Russell agreed to all of El Amin’s sites except for WSSU.

The sites in the plan are the Board of Elections, Brown Douglas Recreation Center, Clemmons Library, Kernersville Senior Center/Library, Lewisville Library, the Mazie Woodruff Center, Miller Park Recreation Center, Rural Hall Branch Library, Southside Library, St. Paul United Methodist Church and Old Town Recreation Center. Early primary voting runs from March 3-12. The BOE will be the only site open Thursday, March 3 and Friday, March 4. The satellite sites will be open on Monday, March 7.  There are no Sunday hours under the current plan.

Those who can’t make it to the polls can use absentee voting. The request forms for absentee ballots are available at the BOE, 201 N. Chestnut St, or by going to www.forsyth.cc/elections/absentee_civilian. A request form must be received by the BOE by 5 p.m. on the Tuesday before the election.

 

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Todd Luck

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