Lincoln County’s Board of Elections held a public hearing Tuesday night to discuss the proposed Precinct Consolidation Plan with the public.
Board of Elections director Bradley Putnam presented the plan, which would consolidate the 28 precincts throughout the county to 23 precincts. At this time, the board is looking to consolidate North Brook No. 3 and North Brook No. 9, Oak Grove and Hickory Grove, Crouse and Heavners, Love Memorial and Long Shoals, Triangle and Triangle East and Shea Home Development and Lowesville West.
“Compared to other counties our size, we currently have three to five precincts more than usual,” he said.
The board opted for these consolidation changes in order to maintain the current precinct lines established as well as the Voter Tabulation Districts (VTD), which local government does not have the authority to alter. Putnam explained that the proposed consolidating plan would help address their issues regarding manpower, voting locations and voting equipment costs.
“A fair amount of our voting locations are in churches, and churches are starting to not want us there,” he said. “Ideally, we want to get out of churches and into official government buildings for precinct voting.”
According to officials, the new voting locations would be no more than five miles away from the original voting precinct locations.
“We’re not making any merged precinct larger than our largest precinct in the county,” Putnam said.
Staffing each precinct has also become a large burden in past years, due to the decreasing turnout in interested workers.
In regard to equipment costs, officials predict the county would save $105,000 every 10 years in voter equipment savings. The county would also save $5,065 every six years on laptop and printer savings and a recurring savings of $6,070 every even number of years. The potential savings from a run-off election, which Putnam believes is very likely given the number of Republican candidates this year, would be $6,070 as well.
While the new, consolidated voting precincts would be given different names, the voter statistics would be reported under their original precinct names, allowing residents to see their former precinct location’s voter turnout and voting statistics.
Attendees were informed that legislators are also looking to pass legislation that would mandate a teacher workday for all North Carolina schools on Election Day. If the legislation is passed during the General Assembly’s short session, this would allow school grounds to serve as viable poll locations.