Three newly sworn-in Halifax County Board of Elections members today — two Democrats and a Republican — voted to keep one-stop voting as it is, without Roanoke Rapids having an early voting precinct.
One Republican nominated to make the board a panel of four members — Bill Croisetiere — declined the appointment, board of elections Supervisor Kristen Scott said following the meeting. She said the county GOP has submitted other names to round out the board.
After Republican David Hines and Democrats Clarence Pender and Annie McCollum were sworn in, the elections board went into discussions of the one-stop situation in Roanoke Rapids.
Scott told the board the issue has created “an uproar” in the city but it was one the panel could revisit and look at the previous board’s action.
She explained the decision which led to the city not having an early voting site. That decision was tied to oversight on the city’s part which made the Neighborhood Resource Center on Jackson Street unavailable.
The board has been using the center since 2014.
Doughtie told the board he recently met with Scott to discuss the matter in which the city was interested in securing another site. “We did have a conflict with the resource center. We have agreed to offer the Lloyd Andrews (City Meeting Hall).”
The mayor said his main concern is Roanoke Rapids has a large early voting turnout.
With the closest early voting site now at Halifax Community College, Doughtie said there is concern about the distance there and how busy the traffic on Julian R. Allsbrook Highway is. “Lloyd Andrews is convenient.”
With Roanoke Rapids typically having the largest early voting turnout, Doughtie said, “I think we should have our own area.”
McCollum replied: “We have Halifax Community College available. In my opinion it’s not very far to travel.”
Parking is an issue at the Andrews building with the heavy turnout early voting generates. “The building suggested would be unsafe,” McCollum said. “Halifax Community College is a safe area. I don’t see a problem for people voting there.”
Doughtie countered, “Most people like to do things in their hometown. You’re charged to work what’s best for the whole county.”
Pender said the situation is “not going to be any better than it is now. The state board has to approve whatever we approve. As much as I would like to see early voting in every precinct, our budget will not allow it. We’re trying to be frugal with your money.”
Scott said after the meeting it typically averages around $3,000 to run a precinct.
Roanoke Rapids City Councilman Wayne Smith told the board, “The mayor offered you a good place. You’re taking away a lot of votes from African-American people in Roanoke Rapids.”
The decision makes it harder for other to vote as well.m“Y’all need to think about what you’re doing to the people of Roanoke Rapids. You’re taking away a lot of votes that could be cast.”
After the board made decision to uphold the previous board’s vote, Doughtie said, “I’m going to look at any other options we might have. I don’t think it’s fair to not have a precinct of our own.”
Scott said any changes would have to be made by April 9 and be approved by both the local and state boards.
She said she doesn’t anticipate the same problem cropping up in subsequent elections, including the November general election. “I’m sure they’ll check first. It’s really ideal to have a voting site in Roanoke Rapids.”