Consolidate precincts

Published 7:45 pm Friday, February 27, 2009

Change can be hard.

For many registered voters who have voted near their home for years, even decades, the idea of having to go somewhere else on Election Day may be hard to go along with, at least at first.

But change can also bring good things, which is what we think about the Board of Elections and Voter Registration’s idea to consolidate 14 voting precincts into a fewer number, perhaps seven.

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While maintaining fewer polling places on Election Day could save the county government thousands of dollars per year, the main push behind the precincts’ proposed consolidation is one of necessity, county officials say.

About half of the 14 polling places, where voters go to cast ballots in person on election days, cannot be fixed to meet the standards of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, intended to ensure disabled persons have access to programs and services, according to Elections Board Chairman Ray Chambers.

Four of those seven—Bell, Parker, Pine Hill and Kendrick—were built as old militia courthouses and predate World War II, said Elections Supervisor Doris White. Three more—Belcher, Fowlstown and Faceville—are volunteer fire departments. White said Faceville is way below the ADA standard.

Worse, at least one of the polling places lacks running water and others are simply so remote they attract only a handful of voters even during the presidential election last November.

Also, with advance voting available, more people—1,196 voters in fact in November—took advantage of going to the Elections Office in downtown Bainbridge than going to their own precinct to vote.

And White said during special elections such as sales tax referendums, one voter would show up to vote for the entire 12 hours that precincts are open, which doesn’t make sense since law says each precinct must be staffed with at least three poll workers.

New election laws make it more convenient to vote.

White said persons can vote from bed if they wished to simply by having an absentee ballot mailed to them. Also, voters have 45 days in advance of most elections to vote; 21 days in advance of municipal elections.

The county is holding a series of public hearings to receive citizens’ input on the precinct consolidation idea, the details of which are not finalized yet. People with concerns can voice them at the meetings, and their input taken into consideration by county commissioners, who are expected to have the final say later in March.

But our vote is to consolidate.