The Lumpkin County Elections Board has been asked by the county commission to find ways to save money. Without a growing tax digest, the county must live within its means just like all the rest of us. Every department has seen budget cuts and the shrinking planning department is left with only a skeleton crew.
The Elections Board response to the commission request has been that the only way to cut costs would be by eliminating some of the fifteen (15) voting precincts. Some of these precincts provide voting for as few as 150 voters. Opposition to reducing precincts has been a hot button issue for some of the old timers who have been able to hold on to these last vestiges of their historic communities.
While we appreciate their desire to hold on, most of us have been so tossed about by circumstance and happenstance that we are in awe of those who can still cling to the past. For many years, almost everyone was willing to pay for the luxury of neighborhood voting places. The reality of the current economic recession with reduced incomes, job losses and foreclosures eliminates luxuries for many of us.
The Elections Board Budget must be reduced. Did you know that the cost of a single vote at the polls in Lumpkin County can vary from $49 to as much as $78? Amazingly enough, those numbers are correct. They are Election Board figures. We have become so oblivious to what we pay for the simple act of voting that the cost has escalated to as much as the average family will spend on their Thanksgiving dinner.
Consolidation of precincts is more than reasonable. In these difficult times, it is mandatory.
Several cost reduction options were presented to the Board of Commissioners at their November Work Session. One would have all voting at Park & Rec. I believe that would be a traffic nightmare. I cannot imagine an Election Day with every voter in Lumpkin County on Morrison Moore Parkway.
The most reasonable option is to hold elections at the various schools around the county. Dawson, Forsyth, Pickens, Towns, Clarke and Hall in North Georgia and many counties throughout the state hold elections in their schools. In many cases, the school cafeteria is closed for the day and students provided sack lunches.
Election Day provides an opportunity for teachers to include a civics lesson for every age group. Students see their family and neighbors participate in public decision making. They have an opportunity to find out what it means to be a citizen of this United States.
The advantages of getting to vote in the same place where your neighborhood children go to school far outweighs the loss of an historic voting place. We are told that more voting machines will be available at each location and fewer personnel will be required. We can save money, spend less time waiting in line and provide an opportunity for older citizens to visit the school.
Since the school system receives two thirds of all property tax and asks voters to approve ESPLOSTS for schools, this will be a great opportunity for schools to show voters what they are paying for.
If you want the county to save money by eliminating many of the 15 precincts and hold voting in the schools, tell Lumpkin County Commissioners and School Board members to encourage the Elections Board to make the change as quickly as possible.
The Election Board has the authority to change precincts without getting approval from Commissioners or the School Board. It is my understanding that all board members support the change. You may contact Election Board members by going to the Lumpkin County website, go to Departments, Election and Voter Registration. http://www.lumpkincounty.gov/index.php?go=departments&dept=election.