Little more than a handful of residents spoke out during the hearing Monday morning but were able to sway the five-member board to vote 4-1, with Helmut Baxter opposing, to wait to make a decision on the precinct cut until a called meeting Oct. 28.
If approved as proposed, the changes would reduce the number of precincts from 42 to 28 and cause many residents in Cherokee County to have to vote at a new polling place, beginning in the 2014 general primary election.
The intention of the precinct cut is to save the county money after early voting has created unnecessary spending to operate polling places with low turnouts on Election Day, according to Cherokee County Supervisor of Elections and Registration Janet Munda.
Some residents in attendance for the hearing Monday said while the intent of the changes was well-meaning, it could cause some issues on Election Day.
Al Herdt, a resident of the Union Hill area, said he’s been working at Cherokee County polling places for years and, given his experience, he anticipated the consequences of the precinct cut could be “three- or four-fold.”
One problem Herdt said he saw coming was a lack of parking at some of the smaller polling places during state and federal elections.
“You’re going to have to look very closely at the locations that you’re talking about to make sure they have adequate parking and handicapped parking,” he said.
Herdt said he was also worried the increased number of votes coming into precincts could mean a heavier load for the workers counting the ballots, which might mean delays in election results.
Munda said she didn’t expect delays.
“I don’t think the results are going to be (slower),” she said. “We have a great group of poll workers, poll managers.”
Canton Tea Party leader Carolyn Cosby said the precinct re-workings might cause confusion for voters and shouldn’t take effect until after the 2014 primary to give time for everyone to learn their new precinct.
Cosby also was concerned the changes could cause issues for campaigning, which is often organized by precinct.
“It looks to me like very shortly no one’s going to know their precinct,” Cosby said. “So when we go to organize along precinct lines it’s not going to work very well.”
Former Cherokee GOP chairman Bob Rugg disagreed.
“The candidates campaign based on the boundaries of their district,” Rugg said. “Slice and dice it any way you want — they are going to campaign that district. Changing the precincts shouldn’t add any burden to candidates in this coming primary.”
Other residents, like John Griffis of Canton, said they were concerned by the way some of the precincts were redrawn.
“It appears like somebody threw salt and pepper on a sheet,” Griffis said of the new Liberty precinct. “In addition to the sacredness of the vote, you also have the sacredness of community activism and community issues. There is no community the way this particular precinct has been set up.”
Munda said the precincts were based on city limits within the county.
“We’ve had to go around the city limits to get the voters,” she said. “That’s not going to be a city precinct, so you have to go around all the city annexations. It does make it look a little crazy — I agree. But the city limits are a little crazy, too.”
Cherokee resident Debbie Staver said everything was moving too fast.
“I pay attention to what’s going on in the county, but this has all come up on me and hit me,” Staver said. “I wasn’t aware of all these things going on. There’s a lot of things to consider. It’s not going to hurt if we end up delaying it.”
Munda said the elections office had done its best to get the word out. In recent weeks, she has been traveling around Cherokee County to explain the proposed changes to residents and officials.
“It’s something we’ve been working on all year,” Munda said. “I wish I could get all (the) voters in Cherokee County. But I know that wouldn’t be possible to be able to do that, because everyone doesn’t take the paper, everyone doesn’t look on the Internet.”