A third early voting polling place may be in the cards after the Glynn County Board of Elections voted Tuesday to request a budget increase to fund one for the 2020 presidential election cycle.
The discussion started as a proposal to move the early voting polling place currently located in the Office Park Building, 1815 Gloucester St., to the Ballard Complex, which is at 325 Old Jesup Road.
“Will we create some kind of hardship if we send everyone up there just because it’s bigger?” board member Keith Rustin asked.
Fellow board member Tommy Clark proposed keeping the Brunswick location open alongside a new polling place.
“We’ve got St. Simons, the city of Brunswick and we got the county of Glynn. I don’t think it would be out of the ordinary to have three voting precincts to accommodate the public,” Clark said.
Interim Elections and Registration Supervisor Chris Channell gave the board a rough estimate as to the actual cost of a third polling place.
“You’re probably looking at $8,500 per election for that three-week period,” Channel said. “If this is something you guys want to do, you’ll have to adjust the budget up at least $17,000.”
It’s a steep increase, said Sandy Dean, a member of the board. She asked if they might be able to cut back on the period early voting polls are open to compensate.
A three-week early voting period is mandated by state law, other board members said, but state law can be changed.
Ultimately, board member Ruby Robinson made a motion to add $17,000 to its proposed fiscal year 2019-2020 budget to support a third early voting location in the Ballard Complex. The motion passed 5-0.
“Really and truly, in light of the early voting turnouts for the last year, all of the elections this past year, I think the handwriting is on the wall that our voters are going to vote early, they like it, and it’s just going to grow,” said board chairwoman Patricia Gibson.
“Ballard has seen a big turnout, it changed in this last election,” Robinson added.
Just because the board asks for the money doesn’t mean they’ll get it, one board member pointed out.
“It might not pass. The county might tell us no,” said board member Sandy Dean. “If it does then we’re going to have to scrounge the money up from somewhere else.”
Given the cost of opening a poll and the potential for fluctuating turnout, Clark said he wanted to hear what voters may think about it.
“We need to find out how the public would react to that,” Clark said.
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In other business, the board discussed not including certain non-essential documents when scanning voter registration information into a digital database.
“I don’t think that’s something we want to delegate to these scanners because they’re not staffed as such, and they don’t have the knowledge in order to make that kind of decision,” Gibson said. “... That’s something for the board to decide at a later date.”
Most members of the board concurred.
The board also voted to transition the elections and registration supervisor role from an at-will job to a contract position and to post the job listing as soon as possible and leave it up until filled.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 12.