Advocates say politics motivates moving polling places off campus

Posted March 25, 2014

— Rulings by the State Board of Elections on Monday to close early voting sites at Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in favor of off-campus locations have some voting rights watchdogs crying foul.

Republican elections officials in both Watauga and Orange counties say the closures – they are now in effect only for the May 6 primary – aren't based on politics, maintaining that polling sites need to be distributed more evenly across their counties.

"When it seems like a county board would rather open a polling site on the moon than on campus to serve students and faculty, you have to wonder about the motivations," Allison Riggs, a voting rights attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said Tuesday.

The early voting site at the Appalachian State student union, for example, attracted thousands of voters every election since 2008, Riggs said.

"You're talking about a town in which 60 percent of the voters are located in a pretty narrow area," she said. "Counties need to know there needs to be a rational basis for this decision. They can’t just try to stick it to young voters, stick it to college students."

In Orange County, the elections board chose a smaller location on Franklin Street to replace the polling place at the Rams Head Dining Hall.

“When we see polling places that have traditionally been on college campuses moved away and seemingly for not any good reason, it’s very concerning," said Bob Phillips, state director of voting rights group Common Cause. "It makes one think there are other reasons for this that have to do more with politics than, again, the goal of making voting easy and accessible for everybody.”

Phillips said he has heard Republican-led elections boards in Cumberland, Guilford and Forsyth counties also are targeting polling sites on the campuses of Fayetteville State University, North Carolina A&T State University and Winston-Salem State University, respectively. Votes cast on all three campuses have historically favored Democratic candidates.

State Board of Elections Chairman Josh Howard, a Republican, said he doesn't see a concerted effort to make it harder for college students in North Carolina to vote.

"I see the boards, by and large, expanding early voting opportunities and pursuing that wherever they can," Howard said.

He pointed to his long opposition to an early voting site at North Carolina State University, noting that limited parking that makes it fairly inaccessible to people coming from off campus.

"Does that serve the broader community, or is there a location nearby that could serve both students and the broader community?" he said. "We need to rely on county boards to make those local assessments, but we also will look at the metrics and voters per hour and make sure that they’re not restricting students' hours or anyone else's hours to vote.”


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  • icdmbpppl Mar 29, 2014

    The left doesn't care about the integrity of the vote--one vote per person. My job requires an id check from people, and I have seen multiple ids from women who have one with a hyphenated name, and one with another name, and with different addresses. It wouldn't be difficult for them to vote several times, and I think this has happened already.

  • LetsBeFair Mar 27, 2014

    well now ... why don't they fight to ensure real time voting sites are available for all military personnel on their bases? instead of always having to do absentee ballots.

  • katzpauz Mar 26, 2014

    The reverse of this story is true too....

  • Pat Sanes Mar 26, 2014
    user avatar

    The location in Orange County is not on Franklin St., but on Cameron St. 120 feet off "campus proper", can service curbside voters (something Rams Head could not) and provides plenty of parking.

  • TTCP Mar 26, 2014

    When I was in college I drove back home to vote where I was from/ registered. I've never missed an election/ chance to vote. Politicians getting a young student's vote warped by university liberals should not be given an advantage.

  • forddp Mar 26, 2014

    These people have no concept of being "subtle". These moves have "voter suppression" written all over them. Unfortunately for them it is going to backfire. The last thing you want to do is try and deprive Americans of their right to vote.

  • Danny22 Mar 26, 2014

    Never mind that one campus was caught encouraging out of state students to vote here and out of state.

  • dishman Mar 26, 2014

    What are they preaching at these churches? Am I reading from a different bible than they are? -posted by UBNICE
    If your Bible has passages about voting for politicians, you are reading from a very different Bible.

  • dwntwnboy2 Mar 26, 2014

    It's a ploy by the Repubs to deny or make it as hard to vote as possible for those they think MIGHT vote for someone OTHER than the GOP. It's dishonest and a disservice to the people and voters they are supposed to work for. Voting should be made easier, not more difficult. Voters need to remember this when it's time to vote these clowns out of office. The amount of stupid since the Repubs captured NC is beyond belief- and the state isn't in any better shape because of it.

  • uBnice Mar 26, 2014

    This also makes me wonder about the Pastor of the church that has let the Republicans in Watauga help move the voting site. First, they wanted to move it to a bar. Now, they will move it to a church. The Pastor could have said no.

    What are they preaching at these churches? Am I reading from a different bible than they are?