County Clerk Outlines Plan To Improve Voting Districts: Includes No More Voting In A Church, Other Changes
Darren Doyle, story:
Edmonson County Clerk Kevin Alexander outlined the county election board's plan to improve voting districts throughout the county at last night's fiscal court meeting with hopes of making all polling places within schools and fire departments only.
In addition to the polling place changes, Alexander said districts should be adjusted to ensure that people living in the same household vote at the same place. While this should be obvious, he said variations with the way voter addresses have been recorded with the clerk's office in the past are the main cause of this issue.
"Our objective in this at the end of the day is to simply encourage people to get out and vote," he said. "We've tried to identify the problem areas for voters in various parts of the county and there are four main issues."
He first discussed that the polling place in Wingfield was closed several years ago, which caused people to have to drive several miles out of their way to vote in Chalybeate, which discouraged many citizens from voting. The second concern was that people in the Pig community were being forced to vote in a church, something many residents refuse to do. Alexander said he estimated up to 200 voters who stopped exercising their right to vote as a result.
He also discussed the third issue being that some voters in the Poplar Spring, Indian Creek, and Sweeden communities were being required to vote in Lincoln, which made no sense, logistically. The final issue was that some citizens currently residing within the city limits of Brownsville were being required to drive to Bear Creek Fire Department, which is several miles out of the way and farther than the Brownsville polling place.
"When changes are made, it's not as easy as you'd think. It's not as easy as just putting things back like they were." He then used Wingfield as an example. "They took it out before I was in office, but putting it back in was a pretty arduous process."
He also said that facilities used for polling places are under strict guidelines such as parking areas, the facility itself, and it must be handicap accessible.
He also made it clear that voter precincts are set up by default according to magisterial districts, which are made by the fiscal court, and based on results from the U.S. Census. The county election board can vote to move polling places within those districts upon approval from the state board.
According to both Clerk Alexander and Sheriff Shane Doyle, who also serves on the local election board in addition to Bob Kleier and Susie Wood, many of the issues that current voters are facing are due to decisions made by the former county clerk's administration.
He then continued the county election board's plan which included a major change in the Rocky Hill community. Currently, Rocky Hill residents vote at the Rocky Hill Fire Department, which has limited parking. His plan is to incorporate the building at the former Atmos Gas Plant, which is now owned by the fire department.
"That building is certainly large enough to accommodate voters in that area," he said. "In that magisterial district, you have two different voter precincts, which is the Cedar Springs Community Church and Rocky Hill Fire Department."
He said as long as the building meets the state requirements, and there should be no reason why it shouldn't, the election board will likely vote to move all Community Church voters to Rocky Hill, to vote in the new facility for the next election.
As far as the issues in Poplar Springs, Indian Creek, etc., he feels that a solution would be to place another precinct inside Kyrock Elementary School. Current residents that vote there would remain there, but another set of poll workers would be added to the gym. That would allow voters currently required to travel to Lincoln a shorter drive to Kyrock's gym.
"I think we can make that happen at our level, but the hard part is getting the state board of elections to go along with it," he said.
Alexander addressed the final precinct issue of city residents traveling to Bear Creek. While it doesn't make sense for someone driving from the city limits several miles northwest to vote in another magisterial district when a much closer facility is available, the solution is not as simple.
"Here, you're talking about a much smaller number of people, so we haven't decided what a feasible solution would be," he said.
If you or someone you know is voting in a different place than someone else in the same household, you're encouraged contact the clerk's office and make sure your address is updated. Alexander has said his office can't solve problems of which it isn't aware.
There are no local elections scheduled for 2017 so Alexander said now is a good time to act on these possible solutions.
He suggested that the fiscal court consider moving magisterial lines in some districts to better fit the voting precincts after the next census, which is 2020, but the election board can go ahead and work towards the other improvements now.
"At the end of the day, we want to be consistent," said Alexander. "I think the most consistent thing to do is to have voting in schools and fire departments going forward."