Elections Board tries to clear up concerns on polling changes

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  At times, things got a little heated at the Columbus Public Library Thursday night as citizens voiced their opinions on the proposal to slash the number of polling places in Muscogee County from 48 to 28.

Members of the Board of Elections and Registrations say the change will improve the voting process, allowing more express polls to be allocated to one site and taking polling locations out of local schools- a safety concern of the School District.

But not all voters think reducing precincts is the answer.

"I don't see that this change from 48 to 28 will be making it easier for our citizens to vote, especially minorities, elderly, poor," said Jeanne Dugas, who attended the meeting.

Many of those in attendance told the board they felt they've gone behind voters' backs and have already made up their minds to make this change- only getting public opinion after they submitted the proposal to the Justice Department.

"So maybe I'm not understanding you. Why are we still here asking you questions when you've already sent in your proposal," asked one woman.

The board countered, saying this issue has been their meeting agendas over the past year, all of which are available to the public. They say they are just following protocol and at this point, nothing is set in stone.

"We want to take your input, put it into the final document, amend it if we need to back to the Justice Department so we want your input for ideas of how to be more efficient and any other locations you may recommend," one board member told the audience.

"We've listened. We've heard some of the complaints. We've heard from those in opposition and those in favor of it. What we will do- if we have a concrete proposal, we will definitely take it under consideration when we make our final plans," said Chairwoman Margaret Jenkins.

The Board of Elections will be making some decisions on this consolidation issue at their regularly scheduled meeting on March 4th at 2 PM at the Government Center West Wing.

After that, members of the board will be briefing the mayor and city council on their proposal on March 9th. The chairwoman tells WTVM it is city council that will make the final decision as to whether or not these changes are implemented.

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