RALEIGH — The State Board of Elections on Thursday upheld the plan of the Robeson County Board of Elections to open two satellite early voting sites for the November General Election whiole nixing a site for Red Springs.
They also upheld the local board’s decision not to open a voting site on a Sunday.
“The majority of the state board accepted our plan,” said Steve Stone, chairman of the Robeson County Board of Elections. “They understood the cost- benefit analysis of opening another site.”
Robeson BOE member Tiffany Peguise Powers, the board’s lone Democrat, asked the state board to consider adding Red Springs to the two satellite voting sites, Pembroke and Fairmont, already approved by the local board. Powers also wanted early voting to be available for four hours on Sunday, Oct. 26, at the Board of Elections office in Lumberton.
Powers, who earlier this month refused to go along with Republican board members Stone and Daniel Locklear and support voting sites in Fairmont and Pembroke, was able to ask the state board to consider her plan because the board’s selection of sites and hours were not unanimous. State law requires a unanimous vote on early voting issues such as location of polls and days and hours voting.
Powers argued that her plan was better because it would provide a polling site in the northern part of the county. The local BOE plan, she said, put both satellite sites in the southern part of the county.
“It would provide access to the most voters for the amount of dollars,” she said.
Stone voted against any additional satellite sites or Sunday voting based on the cost. He argued that the number of voters using early voting during an election where there are only two major contested races countywide — sheriff and U.S. Senate — would not warrant more polling sites and voting hours.
The five-member State Board of Elections voted 3 to 2 in favor of the local board’s plans. The vote was along party lines, with the three Republicans supporting the local plan and the two Democrats opposing.
One of the Democrats on the state board is Joshua Malcolm, a former Robeson County Board of Elections chairman from Pembroke.
“There was a lot of discussion about our plan among the state board members,” said Stone. “Our plan is maybe not the best plan, but it is the best plan for Robeson County at this time.
“It wasn’t a slam dunk,” Stone said. “It took some convincing. There were some good arguments on both sides.”
Don Wright, general counsel for the state board, described Stone as presenting a “strong” defense of the county board’s plan.
“He strongly defended the plan as serving the interests of Robeson County,” Wright said.
Powers did not attend the board hearing. G.L. Pridgen, Robeson County’s BOE director and a former GOP state legislator, was present, but did not take a position on the plan, according to Wright.
The 150 hours approved for the three sites exceed the 112.25 hpours that the state is requiring polls to be open in Robeson County, Stone said. Required hours are based on early voting turnout during the 2010 General Election.
An addition, the state board on Thursday also heard appeals dealing with polling locations, hours, and Sunday voting from Guilford, Lincoln, Richmond, Union, Wilson and Watauga counties.