Last updated: April 22. 2014 4:14PM - 617 Views
By - iscarbrough@civitasmedia.com

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The Board of Elections struck an agreement last Tuesday with the Lilesville Fire Department for use of the department’s indoor facilities for voting.

The Board of Elections has been discussing holding voting inside the fire department’s larger room rather than out in the vehicle bay, but turned down the LFD’s request to sign a building use contract in a recent meeting.

Former LFD Chief Randy Henry accompanied current Chief Marty Morton to the meeting last Tuesday. Morton requested that the board agree to stipulations such as repairing any damages made during voting and to sign a building use contract. He was concerned that voting machines and chairs may be moved around, marking up the floors and walls.

Board chair Rochelle Williams said that the board refused to sign a facilities usage contract because it doesn’t have to, and needs to hold voting inside the department to ensure the comfort of both voters and poll workers. Additionally, the contract excluded hanging items on the walls; Williams said that the board has certain signage that has to be displayed. And although Morton pointed out that some counties have held voting in department bays, Williams said it was still a no for her. Board member James Paxton agreed that voting held in the bays in the past was tough and that Lilesville citizens complained to the board about it.

The board ultimately refused to sign the contract during the meeting, though Williams said the board would think on it. It did agree to some requests from the LFD. Board director Steve Adams will accompany Morton on pre- and post-voting inspections of the building to determine any damage that may be caused during voting. Any damage will be repaired at the expense of the county. To reduce the possibility of damage, the board will put rugs under the voting machines to protect the floors.

Although there is no formal written contract from the board, a letter from County Manager Lawrence Gatewood to Lilesville Mayor Richard Harrington provided Morton extra assurance that the matter will be handled properly. As Williams pointed out, minutes from the meeting will provide further testimony of the agreement. Dated April 9, the letter thanks Harrington for meeting with him, Adams and county clerk Bonnie Huntley on short notice. “With the urgency and the escalating substance of the issue, it was essential that we meet as soon as possible to avoid intervention by the State Board of Elections,” Gatewood wrote.

Gatewood confirmed that the local board did not need to sign the written agreement requested by the fire department. “According to North Carolina General Statute 163-129, the local Board of Elections is afforded access to the Lilesville Fire Department and property, as well as any other fire department in the county (including the parking lots), for election purposes,” he wrote. “A written agreement to use the facility is not required or necessary.”

Even though he said the board did not need to sign an agreement, he did advise that the town, LFD and the Board of Elections make inspections of the facilities to note any damage done during voting, promising repairs if necessary. “To meet the expectations of both the Town of Lilesville and the Board of Elections, I recommend that [Board of Elections director Steve] Adams and officials from both the Town of Lilesville and the Lilesville Fire Department schedule an inspection tour of the Fire Department facilities before and after the election,” he wrote. “Our goal is to return the building to you in the same condition as found at the time of the pre-inspection. Further, the County will commit to repairing any damages that may occur during the election process.”

Adams said that the board is committed to making the relationship between the board and LFD work. “It’s our goal to make sure it works out. We want to work with the voters of Lilesville to make sure it works out,” he said.

Morton said the agreement is enough to satisfy him. “The issue was never the Board of Elections using our facility for voting, but rather the area in which voting was being held, and that was in the fire bays,” he said via email. “Voting had taken place in this area since 2010 and had not become an issue until this election. Now that we have the commitment of the Board of Election’s and the County Manager to be financially liable for any damages occurred during elections, we feel confident in allowing the voting to be held inside the meeting room for the May election. I hope this will be beneficial to the voters of the Lilesville district.”

Revised poll worker list

Last Thursday, the Board of Elections held an emergency meeting to approve a revised poll worker list. The board recently realized that the poll worker lists for the Morven/McFarlan and White Store precincts were out of compliance as the majority of the precinct workers were from outside the precinct. The new list is fully in compliance with state statutes.

The board sent letters explaining the reasons for the changes to poll workers. Further explanations will be given during poll worker training to ensure that all workers know of the changes in their precinct.

One-Stop Voting begins Thursday from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Board of Elections. Similar hours will be held on Friday. On Saturday, voting will be held from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Next Monday through Friday, voting will be held from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Next Saturday will be the last day for early voting, with voting hours from 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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