By Blake Proctor
The Bladen County Board of Elections met Tuesday, July 28th at 5:00p.m. in a special session to ensure all the I’s were dotted and T’s crossed in preparation for the early voting process during this year’s general election. Chair Louella Thompson requested an update from Executive Director Chris Williams regarding the need for this meeting.
Mr. Williams confirmed that the State Board of Elections requires that there be a minority plan for early voting when the local Board is not unanimous in its plan. The Board then voted to ratify majority Plan A, which meets State criteria and was again approved by a vote of 3 – 2 with Board members Michael Aycock and Emery White dissenting; the minority plan, Plan B, does not, however, meet the criterion that polls be open for a minimum of ten hours on weekends.
That plan, as put forth by Mssrs. Aycock and White, was exactly the same as the majority plan, with the exception that the polls would not be open on Sundays as proposed. This reduced weekend polling to seven hours and was out of compliance with the State’s requirement. The dilemma was quickly resolved by adding three hours to the Saturday schedule, and was approved by consensus.
Mr. White then requested consideration of adding Bethel Township for early voting since there were already four polling places in District 1; it was noted that since the six sites had already been approved and signed off on for both Plan A and Plan B, which site would he recommend be eliminated. After extensive discussion, it was determined that there would be no changes in the previously-agreed-upon polling places.
Mayor Darryl Dowless and Commissioner David Hursey from the Town of Dublin were present to clear up some misconceptions and miscommunications regarding the Board’s decision to not provide early voting at the Dublin Community Center. At the previous Board meeting on July 14th, Mr. Williams stated that his conversations with Dublin Town Clerk Ashley Matthews were not satisfactory because the rental rate specified was twice that of any other site, and the Town had no plans to provide internet service.
Mayor Dowless stated, first, that Dublin’s citizens were not happy that they would not have early voting in town this year; he then confirmed that Ms. Matthews responded correctly to Mr. Williams, given the information that she had on hand. The Mayor said that after Board representatives visited the site and discussed the rental charge and the lack of internet with Ms. Matthews, no one in Dublin had been made aware that there was even a problem.
Indeed, there was no further contact from the Board of Elections, but he believed that Mr. Williams should have made an attempt to contact him or another Commissioner in an effort to amicably rectify these two issues. He affirmed that there was a breakdown in communications in both directions, and hoped that the two boards could work to resolve any future issues that may occur.
All business as specified in the call for this special meeting having been resolved, the meeting adjourned at 5:33p.m.