Stephens Co. Continues Pursuit of Single Vote Center

Stephens County is continuing to move ahead with plans to eventually switch to a single voting center on Election Day.

On Tuesday, Stephens County Registrar Theresa Kelley held a public hearing on the proposal during the Stephens County Commission meeting at the historic courthouse in downtown Toccoa.

Kelley’s proposal is to consolidate Stephens County’s eight Election Day voting precincts into a single vote center on Election Day at a location such as the Stephens County Senior Center.

She said it would be a good move for the county.

“We will still have the early voting, which is up here at the Government Building, and we still have absentee ballots available by mail,” said Kelley. “I just want to change the Election Day (voting locations) because there are times when we do more early voting and absentees than we do (on Election Day) and that is costing the taxpayers too much money.”

Two people spoke on the matter during the public hearing.

Leonard Sheriff of Eastanollee said he is concerned that providing fewer places to vote on Election Day may decrease voter turnout.

“Our most serious problem is getting people to come vote,” said Sheriff. “We have a very low percentage of voters and I would exercise extreme caution in making only one place available (to vote). That will have a serious impact on the number of people that come and vote.”

However, Kelley said that people will still have a number of different ways to cast their ballot if they choose to do so.

“Most of the time, people are coming up and doing early voting here at the Government Building,” said Kelley. “The last presidential election we had, we voted over 10,000 people. 7,000 of them came through and did early voting and we had about 3,000 on Election Day. They are still going to come up and do early voting. We still have mail-out absentee ballots that people are requesting a whole lot of.”

In addition, Kelley said that the Senior Center has provided transportation in past elections to help seniors who could not get to the polls themselves get there to cast a ballot.

Another local resident, Sheila Pink, said she thinks the vote center is a good idea.

“It is not a hardship on anybody,” said Pink. “You come into town to do your grocery shopping, you go down into the courthouse and vote.”

County commissioners took no action following the public hearing. Commissioners endorsed the switch to a single vote center in August.

Kelley said the next step is to submit her proposal to the Department of Justice for its approval.

According to Kelley, that approval would not come, if it does, until at least next year.

That means that this November’s election will run as it has previously, with eight voting precincts on Election Day.