Citizen questions precinct closures

Published 11:11 am Wednesday, May 17, 2017

With June political primaries around the corner, Saxe resident Rebecca Daly is advocating for two voting precinct locations to be reopened in Charlotte County.

Daly brought her concerns to county supervisors during their May 9 meeting.

“These polling places need to be reopened,” she told the board last week.

Last June, the board voted to combine two precincts into one within two voting districts, relocating the precinct to the White Oak Grove Baptist Church for the Cullen/Red House Voting District.

The Bacon/Saxe Voting District precinct was moved to Southall Community Building in Saxe.

“There is nothing more important than our right to vote,” Daly said. “These two areas deserve that right as much as anyone.”

Daly said making it more difficult to cast ballots could potentially limit voter turnout in those areas.

“Consolidating the Bacon District polling place resulted in lines, lack of parking, lack of lighting and lack of heat in Saxe,” said Daly.

In comparison, Daly said the Bacon District School — which is no longer being used — was a nice facility and contained the adequate parking.

Voter Registrar Nan Lambert said the two voting districts previously each had two precincts.

“It was cost-effective to just have one precinct per district,” she said.

She said an effort had been made to locate a centralized polling place, though one could not be acquired.

Drakes Branch Supervisor and Board Vice Chairman Garland H. Hamlett Jr. said the decision to consolidate the polling locations was at the recommendation of the county’s electoral board.

“I believe there was an issue of heating (and) cooling,” Hamlett said. “Also, we cut down in the voting machines as well and saved some money, too.”

The closure of the two precincts came as county officials looked to purchase new state-mandated voting machines — which was part of the decision to consolidate.

Lambert said the mandated voting machines had to be purchased, which resulted in the conversion to optical scan ballots.

She said the most cost-friendly and effective machines were purchased that would get the best job done for the county.

According to the April minutes of the electoral board, plans have been in discussion to add additional electrical outlets at the new Saxe/Bacon polling location.

“The church members have reported that they contacted someone who said that the entire building’s wiring needed upgrading before any additional plug-ins are placed, and they secured a bid for that effort of $1,080.28.  … The church is not able to pay this. The church members and electoral board will seek other possible sources of revenue for the needed upgrade,” according to the April minutes.