On Wednesday, January 19 several Lincoln County residents confronted their acting Board of Elections Members to express their discontent with the Board’s intention to eliminate 6 of the county’s 7 currently active polling locations, forcing all residents to travel to Lincolnton to vote.
The meeting room overfilled its capacity, and the meeting’s attendees were primarily Black constituents. Upon their arrival constituents presented the board with hefty petitions as proof of widespread disagreement with the Board’s plans.
The public comment section of the meeting was filled with citizens articulating the reasons why such a drastic change would inflict unnecessary hardships on them and members of their communities. The Board was unable to answer many of the citizens’ questions, and selectively remind constituents that this was a ‘public comment opportunity, not a question and answer section’ when they saw fit.
As citizens’ discontent with the Board’s inability to provide adequate logistical details regarding the drastic changes they were proposing and their questions grew more intense, Board Chairman James. H. Allen abruptly ended the meeting.
The Board did not vote on the issue prior to adjourning the meeting, despite announcing that they intended to do so and listing said vote on their agenda.
Details regarding the public comment section are as follows:
- Who will be responsible for transportation? If you could not find people to work polls how will transportation be provided?
- Will you lose your place if you step out of line to drink water?
Answer: You should be fine. Hopefully, the person in front of you will be courteous enough
- You’re telling me if 1500 people call to be picked up they will have the capacity?
Answer: We are going to be evaluating
- So, in other words, there is not really an exact plan. A change of this magnitude needs a plan.
Answer: That is a follow up. The plan is in development
- You all are going to act on something you have no concrete plan for.
Since you have places in this area why would you close all precincts and have people coming all these miles out? Why close ALL seven and not some?
No answer from Board given
- I’m not understanding if this is already passed.
Answer: It has not yet been voted on
Speaker 4: Could not hear*
- Have you not read the petition I sent to you regarding the law?
Answer: No one has looked at the petitions yet, we will go over that first thing in the morning
2. Will you all check the petitions before you vote on this change?
Answer: Yes, those will have to be checked
- I would like to see if we could keep one location open in the south and one in the north on election day
- A lot of people in Augusta would like to see what the last speaker said
- How are you going to notify the voters once the vote happens?
Answer: We are going to notify through the legal newspaper and on our site. It is only a matter of getting online
2. Everyone does not have internet
Answer: Well we are open to suggestions.
- Y’all can use the media (television) to reach people as they did for this meeting
- How did y’all come to the conclusions that everyone would be able to vote if constrained to one precinct and one day of voting? I am 67 years old and have been voting here since I was 18. We have never had any problems. People are not going to be able to get here to vote. What is the reasoning for this change.
Answer: I can’t give you a specific reason
General outrage follows, and Chairman Allen adjourns the meeting.