Citizens of Upson County will have the chance to voice their opinion on the proposed changes to the voting precincts at a town hall meeting held by the Upson County Board of Elections on Tuesday, July 21 at 6 p.m. in the basement of the Thomaston-Upson Archives. The Board of Elections is proposing to combine the nine current precincts down to four, in efforts to save the county around $16,000-$20,000 during main election years.
Originally, the board had proposed cutting the amount of precincts down to three, with one of the precincts combining the City of Yatesville, Salem, and the Jug together, with voting being held at the Jug. However, after hearing from the public, the board decided it would be unreasonable for residents of the City of Yatesville to have to go outside the city limits to vote when a city election is held. Therefore, Yatesville and the Jug would be combined into one precinct with the voting taking place in Yatesville at the Community Center and Salem would be left as a precinct by itself. Board of Elections Chairman Robert Haney explained that after looking at the maps of the area from the Tax Assessor’s office, it was determined that about 85 percent of those who vote at the Jug precinct actually live closer to the Yatesville precinct.
“So in most cases it is either as close or closer for those folks to go to Yatesville to vote than to go down to the Jug,” said Haney at a called meeting of the board on June 29. “Of course, we are never going to get everybody, but it was certainly very evident that the less impact would be to combine the Jug with Yatesville rather than combining it with Salem. So, instead of combining down to three precincts, we would combine down to four.”
The other precincts would stay the same as the board originally announced at the April 28 meeting of the Upson County Board of Commissioners: one would be made up of Atwater, Redbone, The Rock and Reeves and would vote at the Atwater precinct (New Hope Baptist Church). Another would be made up of Town and Lincoln Park and citizens would vote at the Civic Center. The Salem precinct will vote at Salem Baptist.
In addition to saving money, one of the main reasons the board began looking into combining precincts is because many people choose to participate in early voting, rather than waiting until Election Day to cast their vote. Haney gave the example of the 2012 general election at the Lincoln Park precinct: around 54 percent of voters had voted early and added numbers show that is the case at most of the other precincts as well. The far outlying precincts such as Salem and Yatesville have a lesser amount of early voters, but those in and around the city tend to vote early. Haney also noted any registered voter can vote by absentee ballot as well. Gone are the days of having to meet one of seven or eight acceptable excuses in order to receive an absentee ballot, citizens can request one by mail simply because they want to avoid the lines.
After the town hall meeting, the board will hold a called meeting to vote on the matter of combining the precincts. If the board passes the vote, they must have everything in place by September 4 for the voting precincts to be changed for the November 2015 election. If the precincts change, the state will send out notifications to registered voters 30 days prior to the election informing them of their new voting precinct. For more information on the proposed changes, contact the Upson County Voter Registration Office at 706-647-6259.
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1