County engineer urges voting sites be consolidated

By ED HOWELL
Posted 9/8/17

Daily Mountain Eagle

The Walker County Commission on Tuesday heard its county engineer propose that the county cut down the weeks of installing and removing vote tabulations machines in precincts by combining locations for some …

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County engineer urges voting sites be consolidated

Posted

Daily Mountain Eagle

The Walker County Commission on Tuesday heard its county engineer propose that the county cut down the weeks of installing and removing vote tabulations machines in precincts by combining locations for some precincts.

County Engineer Mike Short said he had started the process of gathering the machines to put back out to the polls for the Sept. 26 Republican U.S. Senate race.

“I will reinterate again that if there is any way at some point we can look at consolidating some of those,”he would like to do that, Short said. “I know that is an unpleasant subject but it would certainly save us some time if we didn’t have 44 or 45 voting locations to put machines out and gather them back up.”

The county has 45 precincts plus boxes for absentees and provisionals.

Short said it probably takes three weeks before a vote and two weeks afterward to move the vote tabulations machines in and out of all the precincts.

“For the people I have — I mean, it is not absolutely 100 percent of the time, but for those five weeks, a majority of their time is spent dealing with voting machines,” Short said.

The reason is because of access, he said.

“We don’t have direct access to all these locations because some of them are churches and community centers. They don’t just leave a key with us. We have to make contact with someone and arrange to be there at a specific time so they can unlock the door.” 

District 1 Commissioner Keith Davis calculated that schedule would amount to 10 weeks, twice a year for every other year. However, Short pointed out that the Senate race involved a primary, a runoff and a General Election, making for three times in the same year that the machines are being put in and taken back up.

Short also points out the machines also have to be tested before they go out.

“It’s not the wave of a hand and it’s accomplished,” he said.

Chairman Jerry Bishop asked who has to give approval for a consolidating precincts.

Probate Judge Rick Allison said it would be best to run it by the U.S. Justice Department, although rulings have changed so that Justice no longer has to give approval all aspects anymore. Short said he didn’t think the commission could make an automatic change, but he thinks there would be a valid argument for the change.

Allison said beats would have to be redrawn as part of the process. Short said one could still use the same beats but consolidate two beats into one location. Allison said that would mean voting centers could be created.

Davis said, “It’s definitely something to look at.”

In other action, the county:

•Gave approval to accepting $30,552 in an annual federal allotment to the Walker County Emergency Management Agency (EMA), to be used for office expenses in Fiscal 2018. “It’s recouping money you’ve spent on the department. It’s money that is coming back to you,”Regina Myers, the county EMA coordinator, said.

•Approved two lease transfers that change the names of people or companies leasing two hangars at the Walker County Airport-Bevill Field. One will involve storing a helicopter for a new business to be announced at a later date, he said.

In the other case, Gary Compton and another associate, after a death in the associate’s family, wanted to transfer their small hangar to A.L. Jones.