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Precincts remain unchanged

Board to revisit consolidation on Oct. 19

POSTED: October 7, 2009 4:00 a.m.

Two members of the Dawson County Elections Board say the county’s some 10,000 registered voters can be served by two precincts, one in town and another on the county’s east side.

  

Two others disagree, saying the precinct in western Dawson County near Big Canoe needs to remain open.

  

With board member Allen Ferg absent Monday, the five-member panel deadlocked, leaving the county’s current eight-precinct setup in place.

  

“We’ll probably revisit this at our next meeting on Oct. 19,” said board member Charlie Vincent, following the called meeting.

  

Ferg is expected to attend the next meeting, his fellow members said.

  

The board began discussing the matter after last year’s general election, when more than 68 percent of voters casts early ballots, slashing poll turnout on Election Day.

  

The county paid poll workers nearly $16,000 for their work on Election Day. Consolidating precincts could save thousands.

  

Other options for consolidation include three precincts (one each in town, at the new fire station 2 and near Big Canoe) and one precinct, with all voting taking place somewhere in downtown Dawsonville.

  

Gary Smith, chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Elections and Registration, was asked to weigh in.

  

Smith said he believed the board would “probably have a lot of problems” if it moved the Big Canoe precinct away from the fire station on Hubbard Road.

  

The Big Canoe Property Owners Association has threatened to sue over the matter.

  

“I just know you’ll have voters who are furious, and you’re going to bear legal costs,” Smith said.

  

In addition to cost savings, the board is also considering convenience for voters, safety of poll workers and suitability of polling places.

  

On a related note, it also learned Monday the elections and voter registration office likely will move from rented space on Memory Lane to a much larger county-owned building on Academy Avenue.

  

The building is occupied by Lil’ Angels Learning Academy, but should be vacant by the end of October, said Dawson County Manager Kevin Tanner.

  

Ann Mullinax, who owns the child care center, is looking for a new facility after the county commission voted against extending her lease.

  

Mullinax, who at one time had fallen as much as $13,000 behind in rent payments, had asked the board to extend her original lease, which gave her two years to buy the building.

  

Mullinax cited the economic downturn for her situation. On Monday, she said she is optimistic she will find a new home for the business.

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