Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer
The governing board of the Macon County elections office was appointed Monday, and after changes on the state level, the board now has an extra member.
All 100 elections boards in North Carolina have transitioned from three board members to four after Republican lawmakers reconfigured county boards and the state board itself following the election of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in 2016. Boards are now evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Cooper has challenged the changes in court, leading to delays in filling the State Board of Elections and county elections offices. According to Macon County Board of Elections Director Melanie Thibault, Macon County, and most counties in the state, are heading into the second year of the board’s two-year term in appointing new members due to the legal battle.
The Macon County Board of Elections had two members, Sara Waldroop and Luke Bateman leaving the board, and because of the new board configuration had a new seat to fill. After serving on the Board of Elections for 11 years, Waldroop opted to retire. In addition to serving on the board, Waldroop served as the Board of Elections director of Macon County for 30 years from 1970 to 2002. Bateman served as a member of the Board of Elections for nine years, resigning prior to the mid-term election season.
Board of Elections members are appointed by the Democrat and Republican Party chairs, who submit three names for consideration to the State Board of Elections office. Carla Miller serves as the chairman of the Republican Party and Logan Wallace serves as the chairman of the Democrat Party in the county. The state office then selects two of the three nominees to serve. Monday, Kathy Tinsley was sworn into office to begin her term and was elected as the chairman of the board. John Vanhook was also sworn in as a new member and was elected as vice-chair. Annette Bell rounds out the third new board member. Returning to the board and in the process of serving his fifth year on the board, Gary Dills was reappointed to the board.
“’Macon County is blessed to have dedicated elected officials and many volunteers who help make the business of the people work. I am honored to be part of the process,” said Dills. “The format of the county board of elections changed effective April 1 with each of the major parties nominating two people to sit on the board (appointments determined by the governor). The chair alternates annually between the parties. This county has a long history of boards of elections who work apolitically to ensure the fairest elections possible. I am confident that will continue with the new board. We have been preparing for the upcoming primary and general election since the day after the last election. The professional staff, headed by director Melanie Thibault, have the procedures in place, have educated and trained the volunteer poll workers, and continues to advise candidates and the political parties as needed. We are looking forward to another election and hope the voters will come to the polls and vote.”
Thibault believes the new board will also work well together.
“I look forward to working with our newly appointed and the current board members,” said Thibault. “Our board members have always worked together regardless of their party affiliation to provide the voters of Macon County fair, honest, accurate and bi-partisan elections and they will continue to do so.”
The new members have to work quickly to be prepared for the May 8 primary. By state statute, it is up to the board of elections members to appoint all chief judges, judges, assistants, and other officers of elections, and designate the precinct in which each shall serve. Candidates for the May 8 primary have already filed and the election is just over a month away.
North Carolina has a semi-open primary, meaning voters who are registered with a particular political party can only vote for candidates within their party. Unaffiliated voters can vote for candidates in any political party.
The deadline to register to vote in the North Carolina primary is Friday, April 13, 2018. The absentee mail-in voting deadline is May 1 at 5 p.m. to make this request and May 8 at 5 p.m. to return the ballot and application, or postmarked by May 8 and received by the office within three days. One-Stop Early Voting starts at the board of elections office and at the Highlands Civic Center on April 19 and ends on May 5.
On Tuesday, May 8, all polling places are open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.
Unlike one-stop early voting, a voter is assigned to a specific polling place on Election Day. A voter should ensure their registration information is correct by contacting the Macon County Board of Elections office at (828)349-2034.