Trouble at Forsyth County Board of Elections – Citizen Has to Fight For Right to Vote

The following letter was written to the Winston Salem Journal on June 11th. It describes my husbands ordeal in casting his ballot both during the primary and the runoff. I don’t need to tell Forsyth County citizens the seriousness of this issue. Should this continue it portends a problem for November. The letter follows. Comments to the WS Journal, the Forsyth County Board of Elections, and this blog are encouraged and appreciated.

Dear Editor:

Forsyth County has a problem at the Board of Elections. Forsyth County citizens should be aware. As a voter in this county, I experienced major problems casting my vote during the primary which subsequently led to problems voting in the Forsyth County Runoff.

I was one of the first citizens to arrive at precinct 14, Beeson’s Crossroads poll on primary day. They were behind schedule and still setting up machines after voting was to scheduled to begin. I waited patiently, until such time the officials began processing voters. I identified myself and verified my address. I was directed to the next table to receive my ballot.

Having been registered with one of the major parties since my 18th birthday, several months ago I changed my registration to unaffiliated. Because Forsyth County has a semi-open primary, I had the right to my ballot of choice. Unfortunately the election official at table #2 did not realize this and without asking, handed me an “Unaffiliated” ballot. Prior to my receipt of the ballot, I was asked to sign for it…which I did. Upon my perusal, I realized that the official had not given me a choice, as they are required by law to do, and I directed him to take back the Unaffiliated ballot and give me the major party ballot that I preferred. I was told that I did not have a choice and that I could not request a major party ballot. After much wrangling with the official in charge, a call to the Board of Elections, and much wasted time, I finally received my ballot of choice. I voted and left.

Skip forward to June 11 and the runoff election. I approached the election officials downtown at the early voting office. Upon identifying myself and verifying my address, I was told that I was not allowed to vote because I had voted “unaffiliated” during the primary. It was their claim that I had “signed” for the unaffiliated ballot. I explained the facts as they occurred at my precinct during the primary. Once again, I had to fight for my right to cast my vote on my original ballot of choice. I ended up in the Board of Elections office pleading my case.

Before it was over with, I was lectured on “my mistakes” but finally allowed to vote. All kinds of paperwork was filled out and it is my concern that my vote will be disqualified. It was clear to me that the election officials wanted no part of an official complaint and their goal was to placate me. I am, by the way, a minority.

This is a travesty for Forsyth County. We have 46,924 ( unaffiliated voters in this county. If my experience is indicative of all unaffiliated voters… we have a problem headquarters.

The officials with whom I spoke determined that “I” was the problem. I beg to differ. It is the Board of Elections RESPONSIBILITY to enforce the semi-open primary rules. Whereas a registered Republican or Democrat has NO choice of ballot, ALL UNAFFILIATEDS DO! It is the Board of Elections JOB to add a step to the voting process for unaffiliateds. Before asking them to sign for their ballot, they MUST make request of the voter’s ballot preference. The election officials should not be allowed to assume, whether based on a lack of training, personal bias or preference, which ballot to hand the voter!

It is time for Forsyth County to take a long hard look at our Board of Elections. My experience times 46,924 voters means trouble in November.

Rodney Robles

There you have if folks. Unaffiliated voters beware. Forsyth County Board of Elections considers YOU responsible for THEIR failure. Pass it on.

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