Possible changes in District 2 polls bring opposition

 By Donna Thornton/News Editor

    Some voters in District 2 raised objections to the possibility of consolidating some polling places during the Sept. 3 public hearing.
    Etowah County District 2 Commissioner Kenney Tidmore provided information about the consolidation plan and the reasons for it. He said the cost of holding a regular election at the four places to be closed is $5,500. Special elections cost even more, he said.
    The county is working toward consolidation of some polling places for financial and other reasons. A new state law mandates polling places be moved from schools for security reasons, and Etowah County Probate Judge Bobby Junkins has recommended moving them from churches, as church property is privately owned.
Junkins said voting at churches eventually will become an issue, and the county should work to avoid it by going ahead with changes.
    Polling would be relocated from Liberty Methodist Church, Ford’s Valley Water Co-op and Union #3 Baptist Church to Hokes Bluff Community Center. The distance between each of the locations and Hokes Bluff Community Center is less than 5 miles, according to Tidmore. The polling place at Black Creek Baptist Church Fellowship Hall would be moved to the Lookout Community Center, approximately 8.9 miles away from the church, according to Tidmore.
    Former Etowah County District 2 Commissioner Perry Gwin voiced his opposition to closing the Liberty church polling place.
    “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Gwin said.
    He said it would cause a lot of inconvenience to people in the area. While he agreed trips to the polls are infrequent, he said “we want to make it as convenient as possible for people.”
    Tidmore said people make a trip to Wal-Mart several times a week without worrying about the distance, yet some balk at the prospect of traveling a few extra miles to vote.
    Archie Bone asked that voting remain at Liberty Methodist Church. While he said he understood there might be questions about voting at churches in some areas, he did not believe it would become an issue in his community.
    The church fellowship hall is the community’s only place for public gatherings, and it is used for a variety of kinds of meetings, Bone said.
    Many of the area’s residents are older people who’ve always voted there, he said, and if faced with going somewhere else to vote, Bone said he believed some just won’t vote.
    “It’s the only civic activity we have in our community,” Bone said. “We’d like to keep it.”
    Poll workers from the Ford’s Valley Water Co-op said they believe parking will be a problem if voting is consolidated at the Hokes Bluff Community Center.
    Hokes Bluff Mayor Gary Reeves also expressed concern about parking and space issues at the community center.
According to the information Tidmore provided, consolidation would have approximately 5,275 voters at the community center. He said there would be adequate voting machines, tables, chairs and chairs to accommodate voters, and adequate parking.
    Last week the commission conducted a public hearing on voting changes in District 3, and a public hearing is expected to discuss prospective changes in District 4 on Sept.??? after the commission’s regular meeting.
    The commission plans to vote on any changes that will be made at the same time, in a future commission meeting.

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