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Judge Sanders, who has overseen elections in Montgomery County for 20 years, shared her hopes that the transition will help elections to run smoother throughout the county. “Throughout my years of working elections, the election systems have drastically changed: we began with paper ballots before moving to Diebold machines, which we used for 18 years,” she said. Last year, Montgomery County switched to new election machines created by Old Dominion, which required extensive time and training to master. Judge Sanders explained that because of the constant progression of election system technology, elections have become “too big” of a job to be added to the Probate Judge’s other responsibilities. To solve this issue of the responsibility being overwhelming for the Judge, the Montgomery County Commission is discussing the creation of a Board of Elections. County Manager Brandon Braddy is currently studying the logistics of this board through the recent creation of a Board of Elections in Wheeler County. Like the governing body in Wheeler County, the Montgomery County Board of Elections would be composed of board members appointed by the County Commission. Wheeler County has three board members, but the number of members for Montgomery County could vary as it is currently undecided, Braddy said.
The board is also composed of an Election Superintendent who serves as the Chairman of Board of Elections. This position is a hired position that is chosen by the Board of Elections and oversees all events regarding elections from registration to election day activities. Both Judge Sanders and Braddy noted that the person in this position must be very knowledgeable and confident in working with the election machines. The pair stated that a few current election workers in the county are prime candidates for the position.
Montgomery County Commission Chairman Leeland Adams shared Judge Sanders and Braddy’s enthusiasm for the change and the benefits it presents to the county. “Having registration, testing, training, and oversight of elections handled by a department that only focuses on elections will provide confidence in the election process in Montgomery County,” he said, adding, “With continuing changes and challenges of the election process, it is important to have a delegated team to keep up with the changes in laws and rules.”
Montgomery County will continue to further prepare to propose this change in local legislation in the state General Assembly session in January 2022. During this session, the proposal to accomplish the change in government agencies will be presented by one of the area’s state representatives. Once passed by the General Assembly, the Board of Elections will have two years to organize, as the elections in 2022 will be conducted under the current authoritative structure and there are currently no elections scheduled for 2023. Therefore, this change will not be evident to the community until the presidential race of 2024.