On Tuesday, July 30th, the Forsyth County Board of Elections met for the first time since the new board was sworn into office. In a contentious meeting that sounded a little like Mondays at the legislature this year, the new board denied a request to open two additional one-stop (early voting) sites for the city primary in September. The vote fell along party lines. The two Republican members voted to deny the request while the Democratic member voted to open the additional sites. The Republican board members are; Ken Raymond (Chairman) and Stuart Russell (Secretary). The Democratic member is Fleming El-Amin. El-Amin appealed the board’s decision on the extra sites to the State Board of Elections (SBOE).
The Republican board members cited low turnout in municipal elections (only 297 voters showed up for early voting in 2009 municipal primary election) and they noted concerns that a current city official had made the request. The request was made by Winston-Salem’s current mayor, Allen Joines, Democrat, who is running for re-election and will face Gardenia Mae Henley in the primary.
El-Amin proposed additional sites at Polo Park Recreation Center and 14th Street Recreation Center in addition to the Forsyth County Board of Elections office.
According to NCGS 16.-227.2, counties are required to open only one site (usually in the county board office) during all elections. In municipal elections the municipalities are responsible for the cost of operating any additional one-stop sites.
The SBOE met last week (August 7, 2013) by teleconference and voted unanimously to deny Fleming El-Amin’s appeal. The SBOE also cited low voter turnout as the reason to deny the appeal.
It will be interesting to watch all the new boards of elections around the state begin to deal with old and new issues. The new issues will include the new election reform legislation that will be implemented in the next 2+ years. The old issues just may be harder to resolve than the new and are a result of a culture that was created and fostered by the old board led by Gary Bartlett (former Director) and Larry Leake (former chairman).