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Madison County consolidates polling places

The Madison County Clerk is moving its Jewett precinct to the Central precinct in Fredericktown, but says Jewett voters may vote absentee if the 35-mile drive to Central is a hardship.

Madison County Clerk Joan Whitener said she is consolidating the precinct because it would be expensive to upgrade the existing Jewett polling place to comply with the Help America Vote Act. Among the requirements of that federal law are handicap accessible voting machines at every polling place.

Whitener said it would take $13,000 to bring the Jewett polling place into compliance with HAVA, an expense she feels is unwarranted for a precinct she said does not even have 200 voters.

She acknowledged there is federal money available to pay for the required machines, but added that is still tax payer money and, as such, she wants to be frugal and efficient in how she spends it.

&#8220I cannot see paying that for that little precinct,” she said. &#8220As it is, the county will already be spending $54,000 in federal funds to bring its other polling places into compliance with HAVA,” she said. Adding that precinct in would bring the total cost in federal funds to $67,000.

She pointed out the county would have to hire someone to operate the machines at each precinct, an expense that would be the county’s responsibility going forward. She feels that continuing expense is unwarranted for such a small precinct.

She said she understands the people in the community don’t want to lose their polling place. However, she said times are changing and voting is changing as well. &#8220We have to keep up with the times,” she said.

While the Madison County Clerk is moving one polling place, St. Francois County Clerk Mark Hedrick said he has no plans to consolidate any polling places in St. Francois County.

&#8220We don’t have any precincts that small,” he said.

Hedrick added that the machines to make each St. Francois County polling place compliant with the Americans with Disability Act are already on order for St. Francois County’s 28 polling places. They are to be in place in time for the August primary this year.

The machines will allow people with disabilities such as blindness to vote unassisted. They were all paid for with federal money. The grant totaled about $150,000, Hedrick said.

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