State BOE upholds county plan

First Posted: 8/21/2014

RALEIGH — The state Board of Elections on Thursday upheld the plan of the Robeson County Board of Elections to open two satellite sites during early voting for the November General Election and not to offer one day of Sunday voting during that period.

“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.”

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 early voting sites only in Fairmont and Pembroke, was able to ask the state board to consider her plan because the board’s selection of sites and hours was 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 Board of Elections 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.

Powers did not attend the hearing in Raleigh and could not be reached this morning for comment following the state board’s decision.

Stone said he 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 voted 3 to 2 along party lines in favor of the local board’s plans.

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,” Stone said. “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, said Stone was effective in defending the county board’s plan.

“He strongly defended the plan as serving the interests of Robeson County,” Wright said.

G.L. Pridgen, Robeson County’s elections director and a former GOP state legislator, was present at the meeting, but did not take a position on the plan, according to Wright.

The 150 hours approved for the three sites exceed the 112.25 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.