By Louie Graves
Voters are not going to like this at first, Howard County Election Commissioner Angie Allen warned members of the quorum court Monday.
But, she added, after they’ve done it once they’ll be happy because it is so much more convenient.
Allen was talking about “voting centers” where eligible voters from any county precinct can vote. Instead of having voters from 33 precincts congregate at 13 polling places, voters can now vote where it is most convenient. Their one vote will be recorded, and they will not be able to vote at another center.
Two voting places will not change — Umpire and Tollette, where traditional voting precincts are too far from the voting centers at Dierks, Nashville and Mineral Springs.
Voting centers at Nashville will be at the Carter Day Training Center and one other place to be announced. At Dierks, the voting place will be the community center. At Mineral Springs, the voting machines will be at the Methodist Church.
Allen was the spokesperson for the election commission Monday. She was accompanied by commissioner Larry Dunaway. The other commissioner — Glen Semmler — was not present.
JPs understood the convenience of the voting centers, but they were wary of the price. The court already knew the county had to pay for new voting machines and software, and they are practically depending upon state aid.
The cost for Howard County will be about $170,000. Commissioner Dunaway suggested that the cities might be able to come up with a per capita share. County Judge Kevin Smith liked that idea and said he’d call mayors of Nashville, Dierks and Mineral Springs.
Without state aid, the cost will be approximately doubled. Commissioner Allen, a Democrat, suggested that the judge and JPs lean on the Republican governor to distribute some of the state surplus to counties needing help with replacing the voting machines. Paper ballots for each precinct will be available at the voting centers.
JP Brent Pinkerton moved that the county proceed with the election equipment update in anticipation of assistance from the state.
Monday night, Commissioner Allen told the newspaper that the machines should be working here by the primary election of 2018. She said that the county would save money on election precinct workers.
Early voting will take place at centers in Nashville and at Dierks, with the Dierks schedule to be announced.
In other business, Judge Smith told the JPs that “We’re making progress” on possible conversion of the old hospital facility to modern day use. He said that asbestos abatement work was complete, and that county would begin advertising for demolition. He said that all old county records were gone from the damp courthouse basement.”We do not plan to put anything there.”
Present for Monday’s regular meeting for July were JPs Dick Wakefield, Jerry Harwell, Kerry Strasner, Bobby Don Turner, Gary Welch, Martha Hobbs, Janice Huffman and Pinkerton. Also, Treasurer Sheri Mixon, County Clerk Keri Teague, Tax Assessor Debbie Teague, Circuit Clerk Angie Lewis, legal counsel Aaron Brasel and Judge Smith.