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Voting locations trimmed to three
Decision needs federal approval
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Most Dawson County voters can expect to cast their ballots at a new location next year.


The Board of Elections and Voter Registration approved a proposal Monday that will reduce the number of polling places to three.


Pending approval from the Department of Justice, the voting locations will include one on the county’s west side, a second in downtown Dawsonville and a third on the east side of the county near Ga. 400.


Under the plan, the current Dawsonville, Etowah, Purdys and Savannah precincts will vote at the county’s voter registration office.


Blacks, Kilough and Sanford precincts will vote at the new eastside government center near Dawson Forest and Hwy. 53.


The facility is expected to be completed in February.


Voters in the Amicalola precinct will stay put.


The election board discussed the proposal in several meetings over the last few months and held a public hearing Nov. 6 to give voters an opportunity to comment.


Glenda Ferguson, who chairs the board, received one call in favor and one against the proposed change.


The issue emerged after last year’s general election, when more than 68 percent of voters cast early ballots, slashing poll turnout on Election Day.


Ferguson estimates the reduction could save the county more than $32,000 during the 2010 election year.


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


The vote was 3-2 in favor.


Board members Tom Foley and Spencer Maddox opposed the measure, saying the fire station outside Big Canoe is not adequate to hold elections.


Foley asked that the vote be postponed until the board could also take a look at the county-owned building on Academy Avenue, which will be renovated to house the new voter registration office.


“We’re buying into something site unseen,” he said.


The building was previously leased to a day care center, which has since closed.


“The county plans to take back possession of the building on Dec. 1 with the intention of moving the board of elections in to the facility by the end of January,” said Dawson County Manager Kevin Tanner.


Ferguson said a delay in the vote could have prevented the county from receiving approval from justice officials in time for next summer’s primary.


“We have to have everything finished by May at the latest to get the precinct cards out to the public,” she said.