Earlier this year, McDuffie County Elections Director Phyllis Wheeler, the Board of Elections Chairman and board members submitted requests to the Department of Justice to change several polling locations.
With the expected increase in voter turnout in 2008 some sites were changed to better accommodate voters and additional machines. Others were changed to meet state mandated Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
The Department of Justice has approved the following changes:
- Pine Grove voters will move to the Airport Fire Station, approximately 750 voters;
- Board of Education voters will move to the new fire station on Salem Road, 2,102 voters;
- Happy Valley voters will move to Fort Creek Baptist Church, 450 voters;
- Shrine Club, 515 voters - will share space at Fort Creek Baptist Church with Happy Valley voters. This move was necessary to meet ADA requirements.
- City of Thomson Precinct C3 which was assigned to the Peach Corps classroom on Augusta Highway will move to the Human Development Center (Old Recreation Department Building) located at 808 Whiteoak Road.
These moves bring all but two polling sites (Dearing Ballpark and Queen of Angels Church) into ADA compliance. The remaining two will be taken care of by mid-summer next year, if not sooner.
Another factor affecting the moves is that no matter how inconceivable it may be, election officials are to always assume that all voters assigned to a site will show up to vote and they may all show up at the same time. This means that the site must be able to reasonably accommodate the voters, machines and poll workers in the space assigned for voting. In addition to ADA requirements, some sites were just too small for the amount of voters assigned.
Voters affected by these moves have been notified by first class mail to the address on file in the Elections Office and will begin using these sites on June 19 with the special election to fill the 10th Congressional seat which was held by Charlie Norwood.
Ms. Wheeler and Board Chairman Bill Beckum both said the changes were necessary and will be better for the voters. However, they are hoping more voters will take advantage of absentee and early/advance voting.
The Elections Office has also been approved by the Justice Department to establish an absentee/advance voting site away from the courthouse.
In-person absentee and advance voting is now at the Human Development Center, Old Recreation Department Building, located at 808 Whiteoak Road. This will be the only site for in-person absentee and advance voting.
Ms. Wheeler said because of limited space in her office to accommodate machines, voters and staff, it became apparent last year that something different had to be done.
The new location can accommodate more machines, is less congested and parking is not dependent on anything else going on in the building.
In-person absentee voting means a voter comes to vote on the touchscreen units prior to the week called 'Advance Voting Week.' This may be as early as 45 days prior to the election depending on the type of election. Voting for the June 19 special election will begin around May 29.
The location has a dedicated phone line, 706-597-2625, voters can call to hear the dates and times for early voting.
Any paper ballots sent out in the mail will still need to be returned to the Elections Office in the courthouse on or before election day. Any mailed ballots should not be taken to a polling place on election day for the poll workers to return to the office. The ballots must return to the office.
For more information, call the Elections Office at 706-595-2105.