have waited patiently and quietly until the Robeson County Board of Elections heard the protest from candidate Terry Evans regarding the recent town election in Fairmont. The board voted on Monday by a 2-1 majority vote to recommend that the state Board of Elections review the protest. I wholeheartedly disagree with this decision and want to offer my reasons why.
Mr. Evans’ protest stems from the fact that he thinks having a movie company in our community on the same day as the election suppressed voting at Precinct No. 2, the town library. He further asserts that town officials, citing the office of mayor specifically, conspired to suppress voters. Finally, he contends there was “chaos” on election day at Precinct No. 2.
First, I signed an agreement with the film company to utilize the exterior of our town library for filming on Nov. 8. That date was not my decision, but theirs. I signed the agreement having been told by a county election official that the board had made a request to merge precincts Nos. 1 and 2 for the election, which would have freed up the library from any voting activity. I was informed on Oct. 24 by the same official that the U.S. Justice Department had not approved the merging of these two precincts and since it was within 30 days of the election the two precincts would have to be open as normal. I held a meeting with the elections supervisor, our police chief, Public Works director, and a representative from the film company on Nov. 1 to work out logistic details so both activities could proceed in an effective manner. All attending the meeting were satisfied with the plan.
On the day of the election police were stationed at strategic spots to direct voters to the library and away from the filming area. The officers were friendly and helpful. No voter was mistreated. Since the parking lot at the library was being used by the film crew, additional parking was made available in spaces adjacent to the library and on the curbs of Thompson Street.
Secondly, in order to assure myself that both voting and the filming would and could co-exist equally I arrived at Precinct No. 2 at 7 a.m. and, except for 45 minutes for lunch, remained there in the parking lot directly beside the back door until 6 p.m. At no time did I see a voter be denied the right to enter and vote, no chaos of any sort, no disruption of the voting process going on inside the library, and no rudeness displayed by any movie crew member to any citizen or candidate.
I take personal exception, and am insulted, that Mr. Evans accused me, as the mayor of this town, of acting in a manner so as to suppress voters. That is an insult to the office I hold and to the principles of democracy in which I believe.
Lastly, Webster defines chaotic as “complete confusion.” There was nothing even approaching that on Nov. 8 at Fairmont Precinct No 2. Mr. Evans did not even arrive until early afternoon and others who appeared at his first protest review and spoke of the “chaotic” conditions were present only periodically during the day. A member of the three-person Board of Elections came to observe and actually spoke to a town employee, who said he thought things were going well.
There are reasons for low voter turnout in elections. In this case it just might have been that the voters had not been energized or appealed to by the candidate
n Charles Kemp is the mayor of Fairmont.