Hundreds Vote Early At Disputed College Polling Place
Students at Appalachian State University came out in large numbers on the first day of early voting.
The Board of Elections thought that a polling place there wasn’t needed and tried to shut it down. But students fought back and it was reopened at the 11th hour.
The Republican dominated county Watauga Board of Elections left the popular voting place at the Plemmons Student Union off of the sites for this year’s election.
The issue went through three courts in the last week before the state supreme court finally gave the location the green light. Within the first six hours, 400 people had already voted at the college location.
Appalachian State senior Ian O’Keefe, a political science major from Winston-Salem, was one of 5 students who sued to get the site back on campus.
“I think that this is one of the most important elections that I’ve ever been able to vote it and I’m thrilled that I was able to do it and that my peers will have the opportunity to do it in a convenient and accessible voting location.”
Watauga Board of Elections Secretary Bill Aceto says the choice of the student union did lead to some problems.
"We've already had complaints this morning (Thursday) about people violating the voting enclosure as well as campaigning inside the enclosure, which is in the student union," he says. "There's a lot of traffic in and out, and it's very difficult to enforce an election."
Aceto was among those who argued that the site wasn’t needed because there was another polling place a half a mile away.
But for many voters, it wasn’t about convenience. Don Dotson says he voted on campus to show support for the students.
"If they're going to take their rent money, if they're going to take their sales tax, they need to let them vote where they live," he says.
Dotson says he believes fewer people would have voted had the on-campus polling place been available.