State Board of Elections officials are planning an emergency meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday to decide where to put an early voting site on the campus of Appalachian State University, hours before early voting is set to begin.


The announcement comes after the state Court of Appeals on Tuesday lifted a temporary stay that had blocked a site from being established.

Seven plaintiffs, including five Appalachian students, have fought to get an on-campus polling place after the Watauga board declined to include one among its early voting locations. Pam Williamson is one of the non-student plaintiffs. She says she was thrilled when she heard the court's decision.

"We think that we're right, we are convinced that we're right and we're tickled pink that the court saw it that way too," she says.

Appalachian officials have offered two sites. Their preferred site is the student union, which is centrally located and has also served as an early voting site in the past. They have also suggested as an alternative Legends, a former grocery that has been converted into a nightclub. The university's recommendations are non-binding and elections officials could pick another site.

The decision to not have an early voting site on campus has left both students and employees of Appalachian State scratching their heads, says Adam Newmark. He's an associate professor of political science on the Boone campus. Newmark says recent efforts that reduce access to voting are more than just an issue of convenience.

"You can make the case, 'How hard is it to get a license?' or 'How hard is it go a mile and a half to go vote?'" he says. "Yeah, it's not. It's not going to disenfranchise everybody. But when you look at the data, it's more likely to hurt some populations compared to others."

Those affected groups include students, minorities and the elderly. Early voting in North Carolina begins Thursday.

WFDD has created an interactive map showing the existing early voting locations, with hours, and the two sites proposed by Appalachian State. The map can be found here.

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