Voting centers in county? System would allow voters to cast ballots at any polling site
Voting could become more accessible for Carroll County residents if the county election commission decides to move forward on proposed vote centers.
County clerk Jamie Correia said a vote center combines multiple precincts and allows residents to vote at any polling site within the county. To make the switch to voting centers, she said, the commission will have to draft an ordinance and have it approved by the quorum court.
"A lot of counties are already doing this," Correia said. "It's highly recommended we follow suit because it saves money and makes the election process easier for the voters."
Commissioner Bob Grudek said switching to vote centers would cut down on the amount of paper used for elections because one ballot would be sent to all the polling centers. He also said it would help reduce the strain on crowded voting sites.
"If a large number of people went to one site and it got backed up, they could just go to another site instead of coming back later," Grudek said.
Commission chairman David Hoover said he would prefer waiting to adopt vote centers until after the November election because the centers rely on electronic voting. Carroll County is still waiting for approval from the Arkansas Secretary of State's Office to receive 25 new voting machines, and Hoover said he would like the new equipment to come in before switching to vote centers.
Correia said the county currently has 45 functioning voting machines ready to use at the six voting sites, as well as the eastern and western courthouses for early voting. Hoover said he was concerned because some of the laptops used for voting are nine years old.
"I'm all for switching to electronic, but I'm struggling with the idea of using the old equipment. I want the new equipment in," Hoover said.
He continued, "We have six voting sites and early voting for two weeks, and we will have people who have never run these machines before. I don't think we need to move to vote centers yet."
Election coordinator Sherry Cochrane said she had completely updated 23 of the laptops and had about 15 more to do. The laptops all have wi-fi, she said, and have printers attached in order to print the voting sheets for each voter and capture signatures.
"That's plenty for right now," Correia said. "It even gives us backups."
Hoover said he was not aware the laptops had printers with them. He said the addition of the printers resolved his concern over how signatures would be obtained if the county used the laptops.
Correia said that Leslie Bellamy, director of the elections division for the Arkansas Secretary of State's Office, encouraged Carroll County to file the paperwork to establish vote centers.
"She said if Carroll County converted to voting centers it would put the county in a better position to receive the new voting equipment sooner," Correia said.
She and Cochrane said Hoover should contact Bellamy and discuss the benefits seen throughout the state when counties converted to vote centers.
The commission agreed to discuss the issue further at its next meeting.
The commission discussed the possibility of using the Berryville United Methodist Church as a polling site for upcoming elections.
Correia said the county originally planned to use the Berryville Community Center as a polling site, but the cost of using the facility increased from $350 to $500.
"Mayor Tim McKinney said he would love to let us use it for less, but then he would have to do the same for churches and other functions," she said. "We need to get moving on this and find a site."
Correia said the commission should consider the Methodist church as an alternative polling site because it would save taxpayers' money.
The commission agreed to tour the Methodist church on Tuesday, June 28, to evaluate its potential as a polling site. Correia said the church requested a letter stating the commission's desire to use the premises and the pay if the commission chooses to proceed.