Leslee KulbaLocal News: Asheville and Hendersonville

Gerrymandering through early voting

 

Four days after receipt of Newman’s letter, the SBOE held a hearing in Winston-Salem and rejected the ten-site plan approved by three of four BCBOE members. A letter written to the commissioners and signed by the bipartisan BCBOE majority said the full board had deliberated the number and location of early voting sites on July 17 and 19.

The plan the majority favored had ten sites, one of which was the Grant Center. They claimed Jake Quinn, the lone dissenter, had refused to vote in favor of any plan that did not include four early voting sites downtown. They said Quinn had even suggested getting rid of the Leicester site to get four precincts downtown.

In an attempt to satisfy Quinn’s concerns, the BCBOE began exploring where another downtown location might make sense. That was when they discovered the Valley Street site, which is only two miles away from the Grant Center. That site would be more convenient to more minority precincts and urban voters. It was while trying to stay within the budget, the majority opted to replace the Grant Center with the more locationally-efficient Valley Street site. The letter signed by the majority said any claims representing that the board had approved eleven sites were false.

The letter from the BCBOE majority further documented that within 45 minutes of the July 19 meeting, Quinn had called the BCBOE director to say additional funding for an eleventh early voting site had been secured. Quinn was present at the Winston-Salem hearing to hand-deliver the letter signed by Newman representing that the commissioners had approved appropriating $40,000 to add the fourth downtown site.

Quinn then wrote a letter to the commissioners denying allegations made against him. He said the board never discussed needing additional funding, he had not suggested eliminating the Leicester Library location, he had not called Velez at any time to report commissioner action, etc. He correctly maintained the county would have had only one downtown location. The other “downtown” precincts were in the city limits but not the central business district.

Commissioner Mike Fryar, after providing a brief history of events for members of the viewing public, said it was Newman’s modus operandi to act in the interests of people downtown (Democrats) without consulting the commissioners elected to represent rural interests. Commissioner Joe Belcher said the board is always deciding things by a majority vote, and he is often in the minority. He has to accept that and move on. Once matters are decided, it is not appropriate for minority dissenters to go around and over heads shopping the question to get what they want.

Commissioner Al Whitesides spoke fairly against actions taken by any majority party at all levels of government to aggregate more staying power to their footholds. The vast majority of African-Americans vote Democrat, so, while gerrymanders by any means should be denounced, people wanting to rile the masses can label attempts to tilt the scales in favor of Republicans as racist. Whitesides said politicians were “trying to keep segments of the population” from voting, and he saw things through a different lens because of his skin color.

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