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Rusk commissioners closer to consolidating polling places

 

By MELISSA TRESNER

 

Thursday, February 24, 2005

 

HENDERSON Rusk County Commissioners made some headway Wednesday morning in coming up with a plan to consolidate polling locations an effort to save money and trouble.

 

Two commissioners, Jerry Weaver and Bill Hale, were absent from the 1-hour long workshop.

 

County Judge Sandra Hodges said the changes have to be reported to the U.S. Dept. of Justice by May 1 in order for them to be effective for 2006 elections.

 

Commissioners agreed earlier this month to hold the workshop in hopes of dropping the county's polling locations from 37 to 14 to save money on federally mandated electronic voting machines. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 requires that each polling location in the country have at least one Direct Record Electronic system by January so disabled voters can cast ballots unassisted.

 

The machines range in cost from $3,000 to $5,000 each.

 

Hodges said she'd like to buy machines that have a paper trail a written record of each vote even though they cost $1,500 more than the standard machines.

 

"I think that's very important that we get a machine with a paper trail. It would be well worth it to save lawsuits," she said.

 

The commissioners' goal also was to eliminate voting boxes at schools, churches, fire departments and other buildings not owned by the county.

 

Kathie Wittner, the county's voting registrar, said scheduling conflicts have come up as well as security concerns at the schools that have "closed" campuses. At the fire departments, there have been times when voters have blocked in fire trucks. When the fire departments got a call, firefighters were delayed.

 

At the Mount Enterprise Community Center one year, a wedding was planned for the same day as voting. Wittner said they had to move voting to a crowded justice of the peace office.

 

Voting locations now are set up at five public schools, seven churches, eight community buildings and two volunteer fire departments.

 

Commissioners Kimble Harris in Precinct 4, and Freddy Swann in Precinct 3, were able to whittle their locations from 24 to 11 by looking at the voting map and the number of people who voted in the last election and trying to find some central locations, so people wouldn't have to travel far to get to the new box.

 

They also discussed lowering Precinct 2's locations from seven to five. Precinct 1, represented by Hale, now has seven voting locations.

 

Commissioners agreed that the five boxes within the city of Henderson should be moved to one location the Henderson Community Center.

 

Some of the proposed locations need parking and handicap accessibility.

 

Wittner said moving the boxes will create the need for some other changes.

 

"We're going to have to renumber these boxes," she said.

 

The boxes in the city will still correspond with Henderson's districts, she said. In the rural areas, boxes will begin with No. 6.

 

She said she would send a letter to voters later this year with their new cards explaining the changes.

 

The commission will set another meeting to firm up the changes, making sure that all the proposed location sites are available.

 

2005 Cox Texas Newspapers, L.P. - The Longview News-Journal

 

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