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Elections board considers sweeping changes
Precinct mergers seen as cost-saver
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Forsyth County News

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Also during its meeting Monday, the Forsyth County Board of Elections reviewed its 2014 budget request, which totals about $1.1 million.

In it, the department is asking the county to fund three new positions, for a total of $91,200.
Next year is an election year, when the department expects to incur more expenses handling four elections.

However, Elections Supervisor Barbara Luth noted the 2014 budget proposal is lower than the 2012 budget, which was nearly $1.25 million.

The Forsyth County elections office is considering a major overhaul of voting precincts for 2014, a move that could save thousands of dollars each election.

During a meeting Monday, officials presented the county’s elections board with a tentative proposal to relocate some polling places and reduce the overall number from 25 to about 15.

The measure also would remove schools as poll sites, cutting down on traffic and confusion.

“The voters are better served,” said Betsy Brown, elections community outreach coordinator.

Among the proposed changes highlighted by Brown, Keith Bridge would merge into the Crossroads precinct. The Hampton Park Library would then serve as its lone voting location.

Pleasant Grove and Chestatee would combine with Browns Bridge to become a single precinct, for which Browns Bridge Community Church would be the polling place.

Windermere officials “would leave alone,” she said, noting the majority of that precinct votes early. Under the preliminary plan, the other precincts that would stay the same are the city of Cumming, Midway, Old Atlanta and Piney Grove.

The remaining precincts essentially are being combined in groups of two or three.

After the meeting, Elections Supervisor Barbara Luth said the effort could save about $15,000 per election. With four elections slated for 2014, that could make an impact in the department’s proposed $1.1 million budget.

The proposal, which is subject to change and whose timeline remains fluid, would require board approval and three public hearings, as well as the blessing of the Department of Justice.

The board could sign off on the map as early as August, with public meetings — one each in the north, central and south parts of the county — to follow in September.

The plan is to submit the map to the Department of Justice on Nov. 1, so if approved they could go into effect in January.

The measure wouldn’t come without inconvenience to voters, particularly in north Forsyth, where some may have to drive as far as 6 miles to vote.

Elections board member Donald Glover said while there may be some extra travel time, this is “a typical trend all over the state.”

Luth said the impact won’t be widely felt, since about half the county opts to cast a ballot during the early and advanced voting periods. That trend is expected to only to grow.