Wake County Board of Elections Director Gary Sims had to mediate a dispute between early voting site officials and campaigners here early last week.
Campaigners are not supposed to be allowed within 50 feet of the entrance to the polling place at the Wake County Eastern Regional Center on Dogwood Drive, Sims said. Curbside voting for those who have trouble getting inside the polling place was taking place near where the campaigners were set up, putting them right on top of some of the curbside voters.
Tha proximity became a concern over the first weekend of voting and voting site officials moved the campaigners to the parking lot, 50 feet from curbside voting, but campaigners complained that it was unsafe for them to be stationed in the parking lot and that it was harder to reach voters as they came from different areas of the parking lot.
“When they pushed us out to the parking lot, we had to scatter our volunteers,” said Democratic volunteer Rita Rakestraw. “It’s a little bit scary being out there just worrying that you might get hit by a car.”
Sims came out Monday, and after a discussion with Bruce Green, the county’s early voting site supervisor in Zebulon, they decided they had enough room to move the curbside voting down far enough that, with the practice being rare in Zebulon, cars taking part usually would not be within 50 feet of the campaigners. A line was painted at a point that if curbside voting did back up that far, then the campaigners would have to move to the parking lot, but just temporarily while the curbside voting was backed up.
“Everyone seemed like they were standing safely and it kept a campaign-free zone for the voters,” Sims said.
Green declined to be interviewed for this story.
“We’re happier now,” Rakestraw said. “I’m glad we were able to work out a compromise.”
Rakestraw also said there had been two verbal confrontations at the polling place, one between two groups of supporters of opposite presidential candidates and one over a parking space.
Sims said he was not aware of those reports, but said there have been no disputes involving the police anywhere in the county. “It’s actually been pretty quiet,” he said.
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826