By BOB PALMER
Jimplecute News Editor
Updated: 7/26/19 at 4:40 p.m. CDT
Posted: 7/26/19 at 1:33 p.m. CDT
JEFFERSON – When Marion County residents go to the polls in November to decide the fate of 10 proposed state Constitutional Amendments, they won’t have to worry which voting box to visit.
Some voters may have to adjust, however, if their regular polling place is one of the three that will permanently close.
County Commissioners, following a public hearing, voted Monday to include Marion County in the Countywide Polling Place Program. The Secretary of State’s office has until September 12, 2019 to notify the county if they are approved or not.
“Anyone in the county can go to any of the locations,” County Clerk Vickie Smith explained during the hearing.
“If you live in the county, but happen to be in town, you can vote at a poll in town,” Smith said. She also noted that if someone was enjoying Lake O’ the Pines on Election Day, they could vote at one of the polls on either side of the lake. The plan does call for closing three polls this year and possibly two more the next.
South Shore Lake O’ the Pines, Hall School and Lake O’ the Pines Baptist Church will not be open for voting this November. Plans call for the closing of polls at First United Methodist Church and Jefferson Community Center in 2020, if the first round of consolidations are viewed as successful.
“I’m against closing Jefferson Community Center,” Marion County Democratic party Chairman Ricky Harrington said.
Harrington said that on the whole, though, he supports the program. “I think it’s a good thing from a county standpoint,” Harrington said. “You can just go into a polling place and vote. It will be easier on voters and make it easier on workers. It will help us all out.”
Republican County Chairman James Parsons also liked the proposal. “I’m thrilled that they are going to do it,” Parsons said. “I would think it will improve voter turnout after people get used to doing it. They will have to acclimate to the new system.” Parsons endorsed the voting center concept in a letter to Smith.
“We believe that our participation in this program will make voting easier and more flexible for our citizens and may encourage more voter turnout,” Parsons commented during Smith’s research period.
“We urge Marion County to take all necessary steps as soon as possible to enable our county to have the opportunity to participate in this program.” Harrington was not certain about voting centers helping increase the number of Election Day voters..
“The jury is still out on the impact on voter turnout,” Harrington said. “It will be easier on voters. They won’t have to be concerned on whether they are going to the right places. I hope it can improve voter turnout.”
Smith explained to commissioners that in addition to making it easier for residents to vote, the proposal will save the county money. “The cost savings will include rent on buildings,” Smith said, “Also, we won’t need as many poll workers. The county will not have to buy as much new election equipment.”
When the number of polls are reduced to five, Smith proposes they will be Mims Community Center, Kellyville Senior Citizen Center, the Marion County Elections Building, Smithland Fire Department and Lone Oak Baptist Church.
On Tuesday, the Jimplecute contacted County Judge Leward LaFleur for comment on the new voting system. By press time Wednesday, LaFleur had not responded.
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