My Letter to the Orange County Board of Elections

After reading about changes made in Watauga County, I was prompted to write a letter to the Orange County Board of Elections after several constituents voiced concerns about decision making in other counties. Below is that letter.

Dear Members of the Orange County Board of Elections,

I am writing in response to concerns voiced to me by constituents in the Orange County community after actions taken by the Watauga County Board of Elections and the Pasquotank County Board of Elections.

This week the Watauga County Board of Elections took action, which consolidated three precincts into one large precinct numbering nearly 10,000 voters and where the polling place has only 35 parking spaces. They then took action to reduce early voting to four days and eliminated early voting at the Appalachian State University campus. All of these actions were made in secret and not shared with the Democratic member of the Board, yet the Watauga County GOP chairwoman was fully aware of the coming actions. To add insult to injury, the Board did not allow verbal comment from the public, instead opting for written comment only.

Also this week, the Pasquotank County Board of Elections invalidated an election filing stating the person running for the Elizabeth City Council, a student, was ineligible due to living on campus and thus not a permanent resident. This is despite the fact that the qualifications to run for office are the same as the ones to vote and he will be allowed to vote in this year’s elections.

It is my hope that in Orange County we can avoid these divisive actions by continuing our tradition of bipartisan decision making in which all three members of the Board of Elections, Elections Director, and the two party chairs are able to weigh in on decisions before the Board and in which everyone has buy in with transparency. Keeping our elections open and accessible to the voter should be the number one concern for the Board regardless of political affiliation, geography or status as a student. Orange County has always been a leader in conducting elections fairly and that tradition should continue regardless of ideology.


Matt Hughes, Chair
Orange County Democratic Party


CC: Tracy Reams, Director, Orange County Board of Elections
       Daniel Ashley, Chair, Orange County GOP



Thanks for writing this letter, Matt. Please let us know if you receive a response from the Board of Elections.

Great letter. The way they are treating Montravias at ECSU is just inexcusable. He's one of the most politically active people in Pasquotank, and it's ridiculous for them to try to prevent that.  And Elizabeth City is in a pretty otherwise rural and poverty stricken part of the state, so the last thing they want to do is make the university less appealing, because it's too vital a piece of the community fabric to thrive without it.I went with my nephew to vote for the first time in Wake County where he was a high school senior, and now he's a freshman at App State.  To think they're making harder on him to vote there just pisses me off.And now it looks like the next domino is falling in the city in which I was born, Winston-Salem: county with a university is probably going to have to go through this fight. And there will probably be Board of Elections meetings where we need to go give public comment in Hillsborough.In the meantime, one action folks can take is the August 28th March on Washington rally in Chapel Hill (I'll be at the Greenville one speaking, but I know folks who are going to the Chapel Hill one):

Thanks for writing and sharing this letter, Matt. I am quite shocked at the idea that someone who is legally able to vote and old enough to hold office would be barred from running. This is so fundamentally undemocratic and un-American it's hard to to understand how anyone could rationalize it, even a Tea Party Republican. 

  Current members are Kathy Knight (R), Jamie Cox (D), and Ana Kuhn (R).The law forbids more than two from the same party.

The BOE will be making appointments for precinct chief judges and judges tomorrow. Will update everyone on the outcome.

Happy to report that yesterday's BOE meeting went well with the BOE approving most of my recommendations for polling chief judges and party judges.

Matt, a question for you - what will the process look like for appointing the new election "observers" authorized under the voter suppression bill? This is one of the areas of the bill that I'm quite worried about, but also one that I don't know the most about in terms of the process and mechanics for how this will work.

Observers are appointed by local party chairs at their sole discretion and the names submitted to the local BOE. No one, not campaigns or the state parties, can override the local party chair. For example, the Obama campaign had to come through me for observers. I let them know I reserved the right to outsourc pre-approve the names if I'm making the formal appointment. There's rules and regulations and if a precinct's chief judge finds an observer disruptive to the election process then the observer can be ejected. Once an observer leaves, by choice or by force, they cannot return.

Thanks, Matt.  My son voted at App State last year. He did not have a car and would have had trouble getting to the polls if there had been no voting on campus. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help the Democrats in Watauga Co. And thanks for making sure elections are still fair in Orange Co. Maria T. Palmer

I am not sure what, if anything, can be done to help the situation in Wautaga. They seem not to care about public comment on the situation. However, I am heartened that the SBOE chair has told local boards to knock it off and work together despite political differences.

My op-Ed must have struck a nerve. It's been shared by 750 people on Facebook and 92 have Tweeted it


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