County merges polling places

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 14, 2005

If the justice Department grants its approval, Marengo County residents who cast their ballots at Majo’s or Providence may do so in a new location.

The Marengo County Commission voted to take the first steps in combining the two voting houses into one polling place at the VFW on U.S. Highway 43.

The motivation for the change, Nielson said, was the Help America Vote Act, which passed in 2002. The act lists several requirements, which Nielson said, could become very expensive for the county.

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“One of the major things we are having to deal with on a local level are the handicapped and disabled voting machines,” Nielson said. “It is my understanding that in Alabama we have over 2,600 precincts and each of these precincts will have to have one of these voting machines.”

The act requires special voting machines for wheel chair bound, deaf and blind voters. It also requires alternate language voting machines.

The machines can cost several thousand dollars, Commissioner Max Joiner said, and was not something the county could vote up or down.

“The help Americans Vote Act can be a costly item,” Joiner said. “When you have to put $5,000 voting machines in ever polling place, it can get very expensive. They don’t give us an option and we may or may not be reimbursed for all of this.”

In the 2004 November elections, Nielson said Majo’s posted 93 of 123 registered voters casting ballots, while Providence showed 453 of 651. If combined, Nielson said, they estimated a maximum of 550 voters at the new location.

The problems with so many polling places, Nielson said, went beyond costs. Finding people to man the polls has proven more difficult in recent years.

“There are so many locations that I just can’t get poll workers,” Nielson said. “Some of the poll workers are beginning to get older and the younger people have jobs. It requires 14 hours a day and many of the younger people don’t want to do that for $70 a day.”

Nielson said she has discussed the possibility of a merger with poll workers from both locations and received a very enthusiastic response.

The next step for the commission is to submit their request to the Justice Department. Once the request is received, they will have 90 to approve or deny the merger, which could come around April.

If the project is approved, the Board of Registrars will send notice to the voters of Majo’s and Providence.