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Board considers merging precincts

Options range from one to four locations

POSTED: September 2, 2009 4:00 a.m.

Dawson County voters may have to travel farther to cast votes during elections next year.

  

In a cost-cutting move, the Dawson County Board of Elections is considering whether to consolidate the county’s eight precincts.

  

Glenda Ferguson, who chairs the board, said a review of the county’s early voting numbers sparked the proposal.

  

About 68 percent of the voters in the November general election cast their ballots early, slashing turnout at many polling places on Election Day. Still, the county had to pay poll workers nearly $16,000 for that day.

  

“Once I saw how many people are voting early, I knew we needed to do something,” Ferguson said.

  

The election board is expected to revisit the matter Sept. 21. A vote could come in October.

  

Ferguson floated several options last week.

  

The first would consolidate all precincts into one, with all voting at the elections office on Memory Lane in downtown Dawsonville.

  

The second option suggests two precincts, with one on the county’s east or west side and the other at the elections office.

  

The third option calls for four precincts, while the fourth option has three, with one each in downtown, east of Ga. 400 and the Big Canoe area.

  

Savings estimates ranged from $46,000, if there were just one precinct, to $26,000 for four, Ferguson said.

  

“After looking at all the numbers, all the options, I’m convinced one precinct is the way we need to go,” she said.

 

Potential drawbacks for voters could include distance and campaigning by precinct.

  

Ferguson said she has been warned of possible litigation from the Big Canoe Homeowners Association.

  

Calls to the association were not returned.

  

A handful of other similar-sized counties have scaled back to one polling location. Lumpkin County plans to consolidate its 15 precincts into four.

  

Like other county offices, the election and voter registration division has been asked to make cuts during the economic downturn.

  

County Manager Kevin Tanner said he was not in a position to recommend an option, but urged the elections board to seek public comment on the matter.

  

A facility large enough to handle all local precincts voting in the same place is not available. The option to lease additional office space adjacent to the elections office has been discussed.

  

But Ferguson concludes, “The most important consideration for this move is how we can alleviate unneccessary spending in a critical economic time ... with as little inconvenience to the voter as possible.”

 

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