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BOE to decide on WSSU as a voting site

BOE to decide on WSSU as a voting site
September 15
07:45 2016

BY TODD LUCK 

THE CHRONICLE

Election Day voting at Winston-Salem State University is among the polling changes the Forsyth County Board of Elections is considering.

It was one of three polling place changes discussed during the board’s Thursday, Sept. 8 meeting. The plan would be to move it to the Anderson Center at WSSU, which was a longtime early voting site before the 2014 election. After the board changed to majority Republican, the site ceased to be used for early voting.

The sole Democrat on the board, Fleming El-Amin, unsuccessfully challenged this year’s early voting primary plan to the State BOE when Anderson wasn’t included. Dozens of residents and community leaders spoke in favor of WSSU as an early voting site in this BOE meetings and petitions with more than a thousand signatures for the site have been presented to the board. During the last debate on early voting sites for November, El-Amin agreed to vote for a plan that included more sites in minority communities, but not WSSU, as long as Anderson was discussed as a polling place for November.

Anderson Center was an ideal site for students at the college, since freshman cannot park on campus and don’t have access to their own vehicles. The current board chair, Ken Raymond, filed a complaint against the site when he was a poll worker there in 2010, alleging that students were given extra credit for voting. The BOE of the time dismissed the claim, saying even if that had happened, nothing was given to students in exchange for voting a certain way.

Nether arguments for or against WSSU students came up in last week’s meeting. Instead, Anderson’s convenience to voters throughout the precinct was discussed.

Anderson Center is in Precinct 405, which has U.S. 52 cutting though the center of it. Construction on the highway has permanently closed the interchanges with Diggs Boulevard and Vargrave Street, forcing residents on one side of the precinct to take a longer, roundabout way to get to the other side. Currently, the polling site is at the Sims Community Center, which is on the west side of the highway.

Of the 2,834 registered voters in the precinct, 80 percent of them live on the east side of the highway, where the Anderson Center is. On Election Day in 2014, of the 334 voters who cast their ballot in the precinct, 279 were from its east side.

“If we have 80 percent of the voters on the east side being affected by this, it would very logical on our part to change that precinct,” said El-Amin.

Raymond was concerned changing the precinct this close to an election would confuse voters. BOE member Stuart Russell was unconvinced the change was needed and felt such moves should be a last resort.

Raymond, however, did say he wanted to drive through the area and see what the issue is with accessibility before making a decision. The board decided to table the issue until its next meeting on September 20.

The board decided to do the same thing with the other two sites it’s considering moving, to give board members or staff time to go by and see them. The other two sites that may move are Ward Elementary School in Precinct 709 and First Alliance Church in Precinct 602. Both have inadequate parking and limited access points to their parking lots. Ward also has school traffic that voters have to contend with. The potential replacement for Ward would be Hope Moravian Church. The potential replacement for First Alliance could be Advent Moravian Church, which is across the street but in the next precinct, or Heritage Hills Baptist, which board members expressed interest in because it is in the precinct.

If the board is going to move polling sites, it must be done by Sept. 26.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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