Hamilton County officials want to reduce precinct price tag

Hamilton County officials want to reduce precinct price tag

August 21st, 2011 by Ansley Haman in News

Charlotte Mullis-Morgan, elections administrator for Hamilton County

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

When Hamilton County election officials open the Northwoods No. 4 voting precinct at Hixson United Methodist Church, no one casts a ballot.

No registered voters live in that precinct.

And it's one of several precincts the county would like to see folded into a larger one.

At least seven precincts in the county have fewer than 100 voters, and Election Administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan wants to eliminate as many as possible while the county and state are in the process of redrawing district boundaries.

"We go in and precinct everyone and put them in according to their lines," Mullis-Morgan said.

She said reducing the county's 126 precincts by at least 10 could save the county as much as $3,000 in each election.

During elections, each precinct requires a worker who costs the county $100 per election and an officer who costs $160.

In the case of Northwoods No. 4, at least two other precincts also vote at Hixson United Methodist Church. Each of the three has a different House, Senate and county line-up on the ballot.

And even though Northwoods No. 4 has no registered voters, the county legally must provide a precinct, Mullis-Morgan said.

"It's just the way they drew the lines" when the state and county redistricted after the 2000 U.S. census, she said.

County Election Commission Secretary Jerry H. Summers said commissioners plan to address the issue when they add voting precincts to the state's map as part of the redistricting cycle, which must be completed by next August's elections.

"Both [political] parties are concerned about not having any wasted resources if these can be combined," said Summers, who was a lawyer for the election commission during the last redistricting period.

Using information from the 2010 census, the city, county, state and federal governments must redraw district maps based on population numbers and minority percentages. Once the General Assembly approves a redistricting plan in 2012, the election commission will be able to redraw precinct lines.

Mullis-Morgan, who became elections administrator last year, said a precinct must align districts for the county, the General Assembly and U.S. House of Representatives.

Precincts must not exceed 5,000 voters or include voters who live outside a three-mile radius from the polling site, she said.

The three largest precincts in terms of registered voters are Snow Hill, Collegedale No. 1 and Harrison No. 2.

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