Local Election Commission meeting scheduled for larger room in anticipation of high attendance due to polling site closures
The Hardin County Election Commission is holding an “emergency” meeting Friday, March 31.
At least that’s what the public notice placed Tuesday outside the commission’s office in the Hardin County Courthouse states.
Some local citizens have speculated the meeting is due to the commission’s controversial announcement earlier this month that it will be closing three voting precincts.
But the election commission’s administrator, Jeanette Cronise, said that’s not the case.
“Our office does not hold regularly scheduled meetings. We hold meetings on an as needed basis, thus the emergency/special meeting notice. We have to review new voter registrations quarterly, so at a minimum we meet quarterly,” she explained.
Cronise added, “The purpose of the meeting is for the commission to review voter registrations for accuracy. So, this meeting is our quarterly meeting.”
As previously reported, the local election commission announced earlier this month that it would be closing voting stations in the city of Saltillo, and in the Olive Hill and Rhodes communities.
Saltillo officials expressed anger about the decision. Mayor Greg Billings is questioning why voters in the city should have to vote elsewhere.
“We feel like the decision was made in a vacuum. We don’t think that they took into consideration that Saltillo is a municipality with its own city elections, our population size, demographics, and other factors,” Billings said.
Saltillo voters will now have to vote approximately 13 miles away in Morris Chapel, but Billings said the city is working to try to keep their polling station open.
“We have reached out to our state and federal representatives to inform them of what is happening with voting stations in Hardin County because it affects them too. We believe the decision by the election commission will only serve to suppress our voters,” he said.
Billings added, “When you consider we have twice the population of Morris Chapel, and that our population is more diverse and has more seniors, to have them drive 13 miles or so to vote is not encouraging voting, it’s suppressing their votes and we should be working to give minorities and seniors more opportunities to vote, not less.”
In a statement, the Hardin County Election Commission said, “The decision to close any voting precinct was not an easy one and included much discussion, deliberation and research of election data and voting patterns dating back to 2008.”
Considered factors included:
• Voting patterns/history
• Concern over the complexity of ballot choices. Some ballots would include the split of House of Representatives (Districts 71 and 72) and city elections (Adamsville, Crump, Savannah and Saltillo), as well as the general election candidates
• Repeated denied requests to the Hardin County Commission for the purchase of technology that would support election efficiency and help ensure that a voter received the proper ballot based on their address within the precinct
• Difficulty recruiting and retaining capable and qualified poll workers
• Inadequate training facilities for poll workers and lack of audio and visual equipment to use for this purpose
• Difficulty with security related to delivery, set-up and retrieval of voting machines.
While Saltillo residents will have to drive 13 miles to vote in Morris Chapel, those who previously voted at polling stations in Olive Hill and Rhodes will have to drive approximately 15 minutes to Cerro Gordo, Living Waters Foursquare Church, 70 Dogtown Drive.
Cronise said the upcoming meeting will be held in a larger room than usual.
“Because we have been made aware that voters and other elected officials would like to attend, we moved the meeting from our conference room to the small courtroom,” she said.
The administrator said she is unsure if there will be any discussion on the commission’s decision to close certain polling stations, and is urging that those who attend be orderly.
“I expect that Chairman John H. White III will not permit anyone to shout out or be disruptive. I’m also not sure if he will allow speakers. This decision is strictly up to him,” she said.
The meeting is set for 2 p.m., at the Hardin County Courthouse in Savannah, 465 Main St.