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Cheek responded to his concern, suggesting that the citizen mail his absentee ballot to the Board of Elections and Registration if he was unable to make it during those times because the state law mandated that the drop box be inside the facility.
With the number of poll workers dropping from 33 to 18, many citizens were left with questions about how the polls will be manned. According to Morris, the 18 poll workers, which the Board previously told the public was the set amount they were planning to utilize on Election Day, does not include those who work the weeks of early voting or those who sort the absentee ballots on Election Day. “For Early Voting, we will have somewhere around 5-6 [poll workers],” Morris explained. “The 18 poll workers are for Election Day. [For] Early Voting, we can’t control more than that. We can only control the number of people we put in here. But we have not looked at that number for the savings we could potentially see yet. I’ve left that up to the Commissioners.”
He continued, sharing that the Board had not yet figured out how many people should work early voting. “I’ve looked at the numbers and around 100125 [voters on weekdays], 30 [voters] on Saturdays, that seems to be normal. But 60 voters on any day is normal. You don’t need 6 people for that.”
Cheek and Morris also explained that the absentee ballots will be counted by the Montgomery County Board of Elections and Registration on Election Day.
“We’re probably shooting a little bit high on the number of workers [for Election Day], but it depends on the election. Presidential election – it’s going to be busy, it’s going to be extremely busy, it always is. But you have these other elections that you won’t need as many people. It’s a fluctuating thing, but we will never go over 6 [poll workers] in each precinct.”
Data Used In Decision
The question of why the 2020 election data rather than the 2022 election data was used to support the decision came up amongst the public. “The 2020 election was in the midst of Covid,” one citizen said. “Everything now is based on life after Covid. Have you looked at all at the 2022 election?”
The citizen continued to share that the Kibbee precinct, which will combine with the Higgston precinct, had voted more people on Election Day than the Mount Vernon precinct in 2022. “Now, you’re taking these two precincts who are really coming out with people and sticking them into what right now is the precinct with the smallest square footage precinct,” the individual added.
Morris told the group that the Board has chosen to look at the 2020 Presidential Election data because 72.89% of the voters in Montgomery County voted, while the election last year only had a 61% voter population turnout. “We were looking at the fact we had more people show up to vote on the Presidential Election than we do the other ones,” he remarked.
He continued, “My goal is to see us get more voters. We have 5,400 registered, but only 3,900 actually voted [in past elections]. I want to see us have enough communication with people that says, ‘We all come out and vote, and we are trying to set up our polls to increase our numbers and to be able to get more people to vote.’ Another county right next to us had 82% [voter turnout] the last election. We had 72% [voter turnout]. I think Montgomery [County] can do better than that.”
The citizen replied, “But when you are stretching [voters] that far, are you really encouraging them to go out and vote or are you discouraging them? I know, personally, I’ve had people walk to my precinct, I’ve had people ride bikes [to my precinct]; so, in those situations, what are you supposed to do?”
“I understand that,” Morris said,” But part of the presentation that I have put on is that most people today drive to Vidalia to see their doctor. So, I don’t know if I have inconvenienced you if you’re voting in Ailey and you have to come to Mount Vernon to vote, is it that much of a big deal? I think if you have that much inconvenience in your life, you need to vote on absentee ballot.”
Other concerns shared involved the decision to do 3 polls, eradicating any precinct in the Northern area of the County, rather than placing 4 precincts in the North, South, East, and West areas of the County, and the location of the precincts that the Board was from.
One man explained that he felt like the Board of Elections and Registrars should have had representatives from each precinct area within the County to ensure that all areas had a voice.
Another individual shared their fear that public comments would not be taken into consideration because of the short time between the hearing and the official vote. The citizen also told Morris that he felt like the Board should have gained more public input before even moving forward on considering such a large change.
The proposed precinct boundary change will now be sent to state officials, who must approve the alteration. Once that alteration is approved, Cheek will work within the election computer system to move everyone into the correct precinct. This change is expected to be completed by the end of June.