Floyd and Troup counties changing voting locations

Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com

Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com

Two west Georgia counties are cutting or altering polling locations, creating concern that it may lead to confusion for voters.

Floyd and Troup counties’ changes come after Lincoln County, north of Augusta, last month reduced its number of polling sites, citing some locations’ poor facilities.

In Floyd, the county approved a plan Tuesday to reduce the number of polling locations from 25 precincts to 19. Troup last week passed a measure to move four precinct locations currently housed in schools.

Akyn Trudnak, Floyd County’s election supervisor, said the move is a way to save taxpayers’ money, as merging them will cut costs. “It just wasn’t an efficient use of county resources,” she said.

The new map also tries to stop separating voting districts by whether they’re in the county’s largest city, Rome. Trudnak said the city’s borders can change, so it made more sense to not have voting districts follow the exact lines of the community.

While Ellen Garrard, a board member of the League of Women Voters Rome-Floyd County and a poll worker, agrees that the new map will likely be more efficient, she worries about how informed voters will be about the changes.

“It can be tough for people who are not real computer savvy,” she said. “Generally, that tends to affect lower-income or elderly or disabled people.”

Trudnak said Floyd is working on community outreach, but she acknowledged there will likely be some growing pains.

Troup’s changes came at the request of the county’s school system, which had concerns about voting going on in its facilities while students were present. William Stump, chairman of the county’s Board of Elections, said Troup’s education board and the city of LaGrange, which was most affected by the changes, were consulted.

While most of the moves are small, for some county voters one polling site is shifting about 8 miles from its current location in the county’s school administration building to a church. Some county voters for a precinct in Hogansville are also being sent to that church, over 10 miles away.

Those long-distance moves, though, are to what once was a polling site, and many of the voters now set to vote there have done so in the past.

Lonnie Hollis, a former member of the Troup Board of Elections who was removed after a statewide law permitted the County Commission to restructure the board, said she’s concerned few residents know about the changes, particularly because they didn’t know much about the process to make the changes.

The public didn’t know about the meetings where the changes were discussed, Hollis said. “They don’t know actually what’s going on, and it makes them think their vote doesn’t count,” she said.

Stump, in his statement, said that opposition only came up at a July 20 public hearing and that the board has provided several notices and held other public hearings since it began looking into the changes in September. The alterations passed July 25.

He said voters will be notified of the changes through a mailed letter or precinct card.

Stephanie Jackson Ali, policy director at the New Georgia Project, said there is a trend of counties across the state making changes, including cuts or consolidations, to their voting locations. Voters, she said, need to be educated before the next election day to avoid confusion.

“We’re talking about voters who will be inconvenienced by time,” she said, “and often be just completely unaware of the change until it’s too late.”