Under the Dome

NC Attorney General files appeal over ASU early voting site

The Attorney General’s Office has filed an appeal to stop a recent Superior Court order that would require an early voting site on the Appalachian State University campus.

Changing Watauga County’s state-approved one-stop plan so close to the start of early voting on Oct. 23, and enforcing a new one with the ASU location could shake up the State Board of Elections’ orderly operation of the democratic process, the filing claims. It also challenges the Superior Court’s jurisdiction over the State Board of Elections’ actions and discretionary decisions.

The Watauga County Board of Elections had approved, and the state board had upheld, a one-stop voting schedule with five sites countywide, including one less than a mile from ASU, though none directly on campus like in past elections. A group including five students, claiming the campus exclusion was a move to hinder the youth vote, fought with a petition for judicial review and won favor Oct. 13 when Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens called the Watauga plan “unconstitutional.”

Stephens remanded the plan to the state board for revision and ordered it to include “at least one” ASU early voting site. The petitioners called it a victory, but the state’s appeal contends they weren’t parties to the state board’s actions in this case and didn’t have standing to challenge with a petition for judicial review. Even if they did have standing, the appeal contends the petitioners’ constitutional rights wouldn’t be resolvable on judicial review.

Although Stephens on Thursday denied a request from the Attorney General’s Office to stay his order pending appellate review, the Court of Appeals granted it Friday and gave the petitioners until Oct. 21 to respond to the state’s case.

State Board of Elections Executive Director Kim Strach had already sent the chairman of the Watauga elections board a letter saying the state board might have to call an emergency meeting to determine how to proceed with Stephens’ order.

“We are in ongoing discussions with ASU regarding which site they may prefer for a one-stop location,” state board spokesman Josh Lawson said Thursday.