Distrust muddles poll decision

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

As elections approach, it’s time for cities and counties to begin the search for polling sites. Although most sites can be appointed without problems, that wasn’t the case for the Hale County Commission as it chose a location to collect absentee ballots for sheriff selections.

When Commission chairman Leland Avery suggested to designate an area in the current Hale Sheriff’s office, commissioner Yolanda Watkins recommended the Greensboro City Hall be used instead as a more neutral alternate.

“I’ve already talked to the mayor and he would have no problem with us using entering through the side door and using the old fire department,” Watkins said.

Email newsletter signup

But with the election being a county deal, Avery said, it would be best for everything to be in county custody.

“We don’t need everything to be scattered out,” commissioner Walter Allen said, “and with as many problems we’ve had with absentee ballots, we need to keep them where they can be locked up.”

“There won’t be anything illegal or anything shady going on over here,” Avery added, “whereas having them over there will bring questions from the community.”

After hearing the disagreement for using the city hall, Watkins suggested using an empty room in the courthouse. Her main concern was keeping residents from feeling intimated by having to walk into the sheriff’s department to cast a vote for the next sheriff.

But her second suggestion was put to rest, as well, after Avery claimed the room was being used by auditors.

When the discussion was finally over, the motion passed to collect absentee ballots in the sheriff’s department, 3-1, with Watkins being the only vote against it.

“They were putting so much on problems with absentee ballots, but it’s not so much about that. Absentee votes have been a problem in every election we’ve had in the county anyway,” Watkins said. “People are just going to feel uncomfortable going all the way to the back of the sheriff’s office to cast their vote.”

County Extension coordinator, Denise Shirley from the Hale County Agricultural Extension Systems informed the commission about recent changes in the office. Instead of each county having an agent, Shirley said, agents will represent a region. She also said a grant from the Alabama Department of Public Health is providing funds for Teens Getting Involved in the Future, or T.G.I.F., a 4-H program which trains 11 and 12 graders to teach county sixth graders about abstinence.

The commission also agreed to permit county employee Andretta Skipper to fill the tax collector position temporarily until someone is appointed.

“We will give her the duties and pay for right now,” Avery said, “until the governor appoints someone.”

And the courthouse will receive a new security system as soon as payment agreements are put on paper.

The Hale County Courthouse will be closed on Friday, April 14, in honor of Good Friday and the next Hale County Commission meeting is at 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 25.