By DOTTY NIST
Walton County voters will soon be getting mail from their supervisor of elections about voting precinct consolidation and changes in precinct numbers.
Walton County Supervisor of Elections Bobby Beasley commented that precinct consolidation will save taxpayers money.
The consolidation is to affect mainly rural precincts and a total of 3,000 voters, Beasley revealed. He added that actually many fewer voters than that, approximately 750 in fact, will be affected. This is due to about half of voters either casting their ballots at early voting sites or by mail and voter turnout being approximately 50 percent. Beasley wanted citizens to be assured that they would definitely be voting at a location close to them.
County commissioners approved the precinct renumbering and consolidation on Oct. 25. The number of precincts in the county is being reduced from 33 to 21. The 21 remaining precincts have been renumbered but will keep the same names.
The 12 precincts affected by consolidation are Pleasant Valley, Alaqua, Red Bay, Sandy Creek, Caney Creek, Pleasant Ridge, Children’s Home, Limestone, Clear Springs, Moores, Flowersview, and Douglass Crossroads.
Beasley said shifts in population, shifts in voting trends, and redistricting were among the reasons for the changes.
Early voting and voting by mail have both increased steadily over the past decade, he explained. Current voting equipment, he said, is reaching its end of life and will need replacing in the near future. At a cost of $7,000 to $8,000 per unit, new voting equipment is both more efficient and more expensive. By consolidating precincts, Beasley said, a limited amount of more efficient equipment can reach more voters. By reducing polling places, $150,000 or more can be saved on equipment, he added
A one-time countywide mailing of updated voter registration cards is planned, and is to be combined with the SOE’s required mailing to inform voters of the recent county commission and school board redistricting changes. The mailing will also provide upcoming election dates, voter instructions, and other election information. The cost for a countywide mailing is $20,000, a good reason to “kill several birds with one stone,” Beasley remarked.
“It’s easier to vote now than ever,” Beasley commented. He noted that voters now have the options of early voting at one of several sites, voting by mail (absentee) ballot, or voting at their precinct on election day.
Beasley said voters are able to ask for mail ballots not just for an upcoming election but for subsequent elections in one request. Anyone can now request an absentee ballot and vote by mail without having to give a reason, he added.
While the elections bill approved by the legislature shortened the time frame for early voting, Beasley said supervisors of elections who keep early voting sites open 12 hours per day on the mandated days, as the bill allows, will still be providing 69 hours of early voting, the same as for previous years. He said he plans to keep early voting sites in Walton County open for that number of hours or close to it. Due to the bill’s requirements, as part of early voting, Sunday voting will take place in Walton County for the first time….
Read the full story in the Nov. 10, 2011 edition of the Herald Breeze.