No action was taken at a Thursday evening, Sept. 16, emergency meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Elections after it clarified that the door of Rep. Heath Shuler’s congressional office was 25 feet away from the door of a planned early-voting location at 199 College St. in downtown Asheville. The board called the meeting in response to complaints by the Buncombe County GOP that the proximity of the two offices could possibly violate state law that requires a buffer zone between voting sites and election-related activity.
While acknowledging that Heath Shuler’s Congressional office is different than his campaign office, Buncombe County GOP Chair Chad Nesbitt and others caught the attention of board members by claiming that a sign with Shuler’s name on the front door of the building could potentially be interpreted as a “political advertisement.” At a meeting the board held the previous night, Nesbitt stated that Shuler’s door sign was 18 feet from the voting site, causing county staff to spend much of today looking at potential relocation options.
State law stipulates that political advertisements and campaign activity must by 25 feet or more away from voting locations.
While admitting to no wrong doing, Shuler’s office sent an e-mail to the board Sept. 16 expressing its willingness to cover the congressman’s name on the sign if it would help ease any concerns.
During the meeting, however, board members said their concerns were quelled when its Director of Campaign Finance Rachel Rathbone revealed that she measured the area between the doors earlier that day: They were 25 feet apart.
Asked at the meeting where the shorter, alleged measurement came from, Nesbitt said “we were told it was within 18 feet.”
“But you didn’t do your own due diligence?” an attendee asked.
“No, that’s just what we were told,” Nesbitt admitted.
Jones P. Byrd (D), Chairman of the Buncome County Board of Elections
Chad Nesbitt, Chairman of the Buncombe County Republican Party
Don Yelton, Second Vice Chairman of the Buncombe County Republican Party
Bob VanWagner (R), Member of the Buncome County Board of Elections
Jake Frankel, Part-time Rastafarian and Staff Reporter of the Mountain Xpress
—Photos (and captions) by Michael Muller