Original post Jan. 30. Updated throughout on Feb. 3
A plan to move the Buncombe County Board of Elections from the heart of downtown Asheville to McDowell Avenue will cost precious time and money and is an ill-conceived plan, says Jake Quinn, a local Democratic Party activist. But county Commissioner Holly Jones counters that moving the Board of Elections out of its location in a county government building on Woodfin Street, as well as a proposal to move the Buncombe County Register of Deeds Office, is necessary to create a new family justice center there.
The plans have not been discussed at a Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. Elections board director Trena Parker and Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger were notified of the plans in meetings with the county manager.
In a post on an the Asheville Politics page on Facebook, Quinn reports that he attended an elections board meeting on Jan. 27 and heard the planes of the board’s “forced move” to 77 McDowell St. Quinn called it an “ill-considered, wasteful” administrative decision.
“77 McDowell is ill-suited to house Election Services, and removes the County’s voter registration headquarters from the heart of County government. It will be disruptive at a bad time, it will cost a LOT of money, and it will make it more difficult for Election Services to accomplish its mission. We taxpayers deserve much, much better,” Quinn wrote.
Quinn goes on to say that commissioners, who made the decision to move, failed to consult the Board of Elections. The Board of Elections office is run by Director Trena Parker, who works with a three-member board of appointees chosen by the governor – two Republicans (Bob Knapp and Jay Watson) and one Democrat (Lucy Smith). (The board majority reflects the party of the governor in office.) (The Board of Commissioners, which works with the elections office on budget and staffing, currently has a Democratic majority.)
“Now, as it happens, recent changes to North Carolina election laws have placed significant, additional burdens on our Election Services staff, as they run this year’s municipal elections, followed immediately by implementation of a new voter ID law, then running a Presidential primary a year from now, and then the regular primary after that in May. Meanwhile, we have new voting machines coming to Buncombe, and they will need to be readied for use, and staff trained on them. We are fortunate to have such a high-performing team at Election Services. While I am sure they have the talent and flexibility to make things work, whatever they’re faced with, they deserve better than this. The disrespect shown our Election Services staff and the Board of Elections is inexcusable.”
Holly Jones responded to Quinn’s post, saying the county is planning to create a new “family justice center” inside the 35 Woodfin St. building, which also home to county health department services and the Register of Deeds Office.
“This Family Justice Center (FJC) is a best practice service model that co-locates services around family violence. As a “one stop shop”, FJC makes it easier for victims to get the help they need. This is a partnership with Helpmate, Our Voice, Child Abuse Prevention Services, Pisgah Legal Services, MAHEC, Forensic Services and Child Maltreatment Evaluation Program at Mission Hospital.
“The tradeoff will be the necessity for Board of Elections and Register of Deeds to move into a different space. I can assure all reading this thread that the Board of Commissioners will work to make sure that these departments have the support they need to move and that the facilities are safe and appropriate for the citizens that they serve. Trena is now involved in planning the space and we will support her needs.
“This proposed move of the BOE has nothing to do with making voting more difficult. It is about addressing domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse victims with dignity and compassion.”
Reisinger said the proposal for his office is to move it to 205 College St., in county offices there.
Please know that I wholeheartedly support the creation of a Family Justice Center for Buncombe County. The current location of the Register of Deeds office is highly effective for our customers and staff. Our preference would be to keep the Register of Deeds office in this recently remodeled location at 35 Woodfin St. However, we would be open to other possibilities as long as customer service is not compromised.
This is a horrible idea. The Register of Deeds Office finally has a wonderful, convenient place to work, and an accommodating place for the public to research records with plenty of parking and access. We, in the legal field find few ROD offices that can compare with Buncombe County and their well maintained records and pleasant staff. Please reconsider this move.
I agree with Mr. Chase. The current location is convenient, no traffic problems, and close to many (most?) lawyers. I too have found the Deeds office folks courteous, pleasant, and very helpful. I like the office where it is located but I wonder if it would really do any good for us to object to the planned move?
I’m sad there are no comments here. Y’all prob don’t use the ROD office, but it’s well run, and finally settled into it’s new location. It’s a really bad idea to move it.
Please email the county commissioners and tell them you don’t want it moved! I did.