Stokes County Board of Elections voted unanimously on Aug. 22 to move the West King precinct polling place from the American Legion to the King Public Library.
“The Stokes County Board of Elections received a letter from the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement on August 17, indicating that state executive director Kim Strach was disapproving the use of the American Legion as a polling place,” said Stokes County Board of Elections Director Jason Perry.
Perry said the decision stemmed from the fact Steven Hewett, who has stood out front and campaigned at that voting location in the past, is now barred from the American Legion property by the membership there.
In the letter, Strach stated, “State and federal laws prohibit a county board from utilizing a site as a voting place if a private party has banned or limited those legally entitled to appear, campaign, or vote at that site.”
Strach also cited “constitutional concerns”.
As part of the three-member county elections board Buster Robertson (Chairman) and Durward Bennett (Secretary) voted on Aug. 15 to keep the site at the American Legion, while Mike Pell (Member) opposed the action.
“The majority of the board noted that they’d talked to voters who wanted the polling place to be left where it was,” Perry said. “Based on the subsequent letter and ruling from the state board, the local board voted 3-0 at its Aug. 22 meeting to move the location to the King Library.”
Perry said there was an initial question raised over the continued use of the American Legion building as a polling place at the beginning of this year.
“At that time, a majority of the board decided to keep that location as a polling place. The issue was brought before the county elections board again when Hewett indicated an interest in running for King City Council. He filed as a candidate in early July, and things proceeded from there.”
Currently, there are 3,417 voters in the West King precinct. During the 2016 general election, about 1,700 voters from that particular precinct voted early, and a little over 700 voted on Election Day.
“Early voting will still be available at the library,” Perry said. “Voters in the precinct will be mailed a notification regarding this change in polling place going forward.”
David Dalton, Stokes County Democratic Party Chairman said he felt sure there are people in King who would prefer to keep things as they were, but it was important to remember that this is not a political question.
“Rather, it’s a clear matter of law and should be obvious — no one can be banned from a voting place on Election Day.”
Dalton noted Strach, the executive director of the N.C. Board of Elections, was appointed by the Republican Party during Pat McCrory’s administration back in 2013.
“The conservative majority in King has a history of complaining that they’re being bullied when they can’t get their way because the law is not on their side. Holding people to the law and the Constitution when they’d like to ignore them is not bullying. Rather, it is an act of patriotism in a nation of laws. I commend Steven Hewett’s bravery in standing up for the law, and I thank the North Carolina Board of Elections for intervening in behalf of the law,” he said.
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.