(Posted Dec. 9, 2017)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
On Dec. 5, the Madison County Board of Elections voted to consolidate more polling locations, bringing the number of sites for voting on Election Day from 13 to six.
The sites are London High School, Jonathan Alder High School, Madison Plains High School, West Jefferson High School, Lake Choctaw Lodge, and the Mount Sterling Community Center. Each site covers multiple precincts.
The change goes into effect with the May 2018 election and affects the following voters: Union Township voters will now vote at London High School, Monroe and Pike township voters will go to Jonathan Alder High School, Fairfield Township voters to West Jefferson High School, Oak Run Township voters to the Mount Sterling Community Center, and Range, Paint and Stokes township voters, along with Midway and South Solon voters, to Madison Plains High School. For everyone else, nothing changes.
Along with the consolidation of polling locations, the elections board consolidated some precincts. By law, a precinct can have up to 1,400 registered voters. The board voted to combine Monroe (874 voters) and Pike (269 voters) into one precinct. They did the same with Paint (356), Range (539) and Stokes (328).
The last major consolidation took place in 2012, when the elections board reduced the county’s 43 precincts to 27. Those changes were concentrated in the northern half of the county. The newest changes focus on the southern half.
Tim Ward, elections board director, said many factors led to the decision to further consolidate. Primary among them is a lower Election Day turnout due to an increase in absentee voting.
“For example, we looked at the November 2016 presidential election: 64 percent voted on Election Day, 34 percent voted absentee,” Ward said. (The other 2 percent were provisional ballots.) “That means, a third of the county had already voted by the time Election Day came around.”
By law, the elections board must staff each polling site with four precinct election officials (PEO), no matter how many people turn out to vote. The pay rate for a PEO is $121 for the day.
Fewer polling locations means fewer PEOs and more cost savings. The board also will save money in reduced equipment needs and reduced labor to deliver and pick up the equipment.
Another motivating factor is the dwindling number of people willing to serve as PEOs. The board relies on the public to fill those positions. The one-day job is a 13-hour commitment.
“People just aren’t doing the civic duty of being a precinct election official anymore,” Ward said.
A benefit of using high schools as polling sites is the availability of students to serve as PEOs. Students who are 17 years of age or older and seniors in high school can work as PEOs, Ward said.
The elections board also took the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into consideration when selecting polling sites. All voting locations must be handicap accessible. Larger venues, like schools and community centers, often are already equipped with ramps, automated door openers, and other accommodations for people with disabilities–or are more easily retrofitted than other locations, like churches and libraries, Ward said. The larger venues also offer more parking.
The efficiency of fewer polling locations also will allow the elections board to post results earlier in the evening on Election Day.
Ward noted the precinct consolidation will change constituency areas for some central committee positions. Seats for the Republican and Democrat central committees are up for election in May.
Additionally, Ward noted that the Ohio House and Senate are considering a bill that would reduce the minimum number of PEOs per precinct to two.
For more information about the polling location changes, contact the Madison County Board of Elections at (740) 852-9424. In the next couple of weeks, the board will mail notification cards to registered voters effected by the changes.