Wednesday night’s emergency Board of Elections meeting drew a crowd of at least 40 people, as well as three police officers called in when several at the meeting became extremely vocal.
The meeting began at 5 p.m. with the board playing a recording from the last meeting that confirmed the motions made during the last meeting on Aug. 23, which dealt with allowing three hours of early voting on a Sunday. A quiet room listened to the recording.
Once the board ended the recording, conversation began, as did arguments. The board was in disagreement, as were several attendees. Further debate encouraged Board of Elections secretary Helen Lail’s call for the police officers, and Board of Elections chairman James Paxton’s mandate for calm. “Everybody just needs to calm down,” he said. “I understand that this is a very touchy issue, but please, just calm down.”
“These minutes have to go to Raleigh due to the appeal,” board member Judy Little said in attempt to explain the purpose of the meeting. “The minutes from last Thursday have to go to Raleigh. There was a lot of misunderstanding. These minutes have to be signed.”
That was as far as she got before arguments erupted again. “The misunderstanding has come because of the lies about these issues,” Dannie Montgomery, a frustrated attendee, interrupted. Other arguments followed as Paxton attempted to quell the storm.
Ultimately, the board said the matter is out of its hands, saying that the State Board of Elections will make the final decision. “Instead of fussing about three hours — you’ve been given 25; you’ve been given more than what you asked — I would love to see this county, Anson County, come together and do all you can with more than what you’ve been asked for,” said Little. “Take the 25 hours, let’s praise God and spend this time that we spend in this room and get someone that’s not registered. Let’s get them registered, get them to the poll. If they’re sick and cannot come, get them an absentee ballot, get it mailed in. Use all the avenues that you do have.”
Further questions resulted in more debate and angry speeches. Little encouraged frustrated attendees to communicate their concerns to the board, a public resource, instead of spending energies fighting about three hours. After further debate, the board adjourned. “Allow the State Board to do what they do. We’re going to go back and forth here all day long,” said Board of Elections interim director Steve Adams.
After the meeting, Paxton reiterated that the county board is finished with the matter. “It’s in the State Board’s hands, and how or whatever they decide, we’re going to live with it and move forward,” he said. “At the end of the tape everybody heard where we stand, where we go from here, I announced about the appeal process, and that’s where I felt that we were just clarifying where the board stood because that vote has not been changed.”
Lail agreed. “Nothing was supposed to be heard except the tape to say what went on in the last meeting,” she said. “That’s all the meeting was supposed to be about. It got out of hand.”
With the appeal out of the county board’s hands, the State Board of Elections will hold a meeting on the issue at 10 a.m. on Sept. 4 in Raleigh, according to a document Paxton had.