BOARD OF REGISTRATIONS AND ELECTIONS, HALL COUNTY: SEPTEMBER 1st, 2015 MEETING

Introduction

In order to test the viability of Saturday voting, the board plans to offer Saturday voting on the second Saturday prior to their next election (scheduled for November) at three (3) locations. The board is not required to offer Saturday voting because there aren’t federal candidates on the ballot, but they are going to, regardless.

Precinct Consolidations

The board discussed opening a new precinct at the Hall County police headquarters. This would take the number of precincts in the Friendship precinct zone to four (4), from the current three (3).

Members of the public expressed concern with the new police station voting precinct. A citizen suggested that an agreement be reached between the police department — that the police would agree not to arrest or otherwise interact with anyone reporting to the police station to vote. Many individuals in attendance at this meeting expressed that Hall County citizens would feel intimidated by having to enter a police station to vote.

Member Shippy (D) spoke against the plan to open a precinct at police HQ. He expressed that even average, law-abiding residents would feel intimidated by the prospect of having to enter a law enforcement building to vote.

Member Copeland (D) suggested offering Sunday voting instead of opening the fourth, new, police precinct.

Member Cochran (R) noted that the issue was not whether the board *would,* in ideal circumstances, find another, non-police location, but rather whether the board *could* at this point. He continued that the problem with Saturday voting was staffing and that while increased access to voting is important, it is the board’s primary responsibility to make sure that precincts can be staffed and operated appropriately.

Chairperson Sosebee (N) told the board that she was sending a letter to the relevant authorities, notifying them of these voting precinct changes.She noted that state law does not require her to seek approval for  precinct changes, but that she was doing so the interest of transparency and to display the board’s purity of intention. She noted that the board has no intention of creating a minority voting district.

Chairperson Sosebee revealed that she had thought about Northeast Georgia Medical Center as a potential precinct location, but she did not think that parking would be sufficient, nor did she think it would be appropriate to send six thousand voters to a hospital.

Chairperson Sosebee reiterated that there just aren’t enough staff members to cover both Sunday voting and additional Saturday voting days. The four (4) staff members that Chairperson Sosebee already has in the discussed precinct are already working long hours.

Chairperson Sosebee related that she was happy to consider an alternative location to the police precinct in the future but that plans had to be finalized soon–within two days, for submission to the relevant authorities. Under the law, changes to precinct locations must be made at least sixty (60) days in advance of an election, and the next election in Hall County is November 3rd. For now, the police precinct location would have to suffice.

Member Cochran supported Chairperson Sosebee in saying that the police precinct would suffice for now. He suggested that they change the location in March and put up a sign in front of the police station during the election that would indicate that the location was temporary.

Public Comment

Female Poll Worker:

  • observed that there is voting in the Government Center (in which this meeting was being held) and that there are police constantly present
  • continued on that the sheriff is also about to have some kind of office in the building
  • asked: what will happen then, if we have a problem with polling locations sharing a building with law enforcement?

Cristian Ramos, GALEO:

  • declared that he will not feel comfortable voting at the police precinct
  • shared that in 2007 he was handcuffed and arrested by the sheriff’s office, on his way home from church. The sheriff’s office claimed that they had a deportation order for him.
  • By the time he was released, 33 days later, he had lost his job. The sheriff’s office said they’d made a mistake but by then it was too late.
  • Even today, he still has to explain to friends and family that he is not a criminal.

Member Sandoval’s response:

  • noted that citizens can go vote at a different precinct if they didn’t want to go to the police precinct
  • said that he has been profiled as much as the next person–that he has never been to an airport without being pulled aside and has never been on a cruise ship without having his bags checked
  • cited his last name for those in attendance doubting that he has been profiled and said that he grew up in Clayton County with “gangbangers shooting right beside [him]”
  • told those in attendance that the board was not attempting to exclude anyone and advised the public to not “make a mountain out of a molehill”

Michelle (Concerned Citizens of Gainesville/Hall County):

  • noted that the 1965 Voting Rights Act was recently repealed and that the board had to stay vigilant with regard to voter suppression
  • reminded those in attendance of the history of distrust between Hall County/Gainesville law enforcement and minorities–particularly immigrants
  • expressed disbelief at the board’s intention to open a voting precinct in a location that had historically unfairly and unlawfully arrested immigrants

Member Sandoval:

  • noted that the police headquarters was prior a daycare
  • Michelle: thanked Member Sandoval for hearing her public comment and reminded Member Sandoval that it wasn’t personal

Member Sandoval:

  • said Michelle had made a misstatement that he was correcting her

Chairperson Sosebee noted that Thursday, September 3rd was her 60th day re: precinct change submission before the November 3rd election. Chairperson Sosebee proposed adjusting the boundary line for all of Friendship 1 to go the Bluffs and asked what kind of line would form as a result.

Sheila Nicholas (Chair of the Hall County Democratic Party):

  • asked what the cost of mailing new voter registration cards was with regards to precinct consolidations–specifically Gainesville 1

Chairperson Sosebee

  • stated that every voter in that county precinct has to receive a card
  • Nicholas: noted that there are over three thousand (3000) voters in Gainesville 1

Chairperson Sosebee

  • responded affirmatively. Acknowledge that the board would have to pay the postage
  • Nicholas: continued that the board would also have to mail notifications to everyone in affected precincts

Chairperson Sosebee

  • explained that the precinct was moved from the Civic Center because many of the events that take place at the Civic Center are political (e.g. victory parties) and that there were concerns about political parties inadvertently coinciding with elections activities

Member Copeland

  • asked why the board had to work around the party as opposed to the other way around

Chairperson Sosebee

  • explained that the Civic Center isn’t owned by the county and that the board had no authority to tell them who or what events to allow

Final Plan

As of September 1st, there are thirty-five (35) voting locations throughout Hall County. Of the thirty-five (35) voting locations, the board has received approval from all except Wilson (Free Chapel Worship Center on McEver Road) and Friendship 1 (Prince of Peace Church).

Changes

  • Wilson
    • being moved from Free Chapel to Pleasant Hill Baptist Church
  • Oakwood 2+3
    • being reconsolidated to save costs because of popularity of early voting
  • Morgan 1
    • voters removed from split subdivision; voters will be placed in Friendship 1
  • Morgan 2+3:
    • being reconsolidated after split
    • Three thousand nine hundred and eleven (3,911) voters total at this location after consolidation
  • Bark Camp + Murrayville
    • were at one point combined
    • each has about twenty-two hundred (2,200) voters
    • looking at relocating to the Rivers Community Church, which is a larger facility and can handle the combined total amount of voters
  • Gainesville 1 + Riverbend
    • being consolidated
  • New Holland & Glade
    • get rid of that [Glade?] precinct
    • parking is very limited
    • sending all the voters over to the East Holland community center
  • Big Hickory
  • Friendship 1
    • was at Prince of Peace
    • location couldn’t confirm early voting for all dates needed
      • proposal: establish a temporary location at sheriff’s office
  • Friendship 2
    • currently at Friendship elementary
    • some issues with school–looking at possible relocation
      • proposal: move the line and change the location to Cherokee Bluffs Community Park
  • Friendship 3
    • currently at CW David Elementary School
    • some issues with school–looking at possible relocation
      • proposal: move the line and change to Mulberry Creek Community Center
  • Friendship 4
    • proposal: new precinct–Spout Springs Library

If all the proposed changes are accepted, the amount of precincts will be reduced from thirty five (35) to thirty-one (31).

Based on the election scheduled for November 2015, the county would save $3,224 per election. Even if the proposal to increase the janitorial service budget for each polling location from $100 to $200 is passed, the board would still save $1500 per election.

The Saturday voting proposal discussed prior in the meeting will start in November of 2015 and will be offered on the second Saturday prior to Election Day.

  • Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • At three locations: County Government Center, North Hall Community Center, and Spout Springs Library

Chairperson Sosebee noted that there was conversation about having vote centers in the state of Georgia. If vote centers were established, then an individual could vote at any vote center in the state of Georgia.

Member Shippy reiterated his disagreement with the police precinct.

MOTION: Chairperson Sosebee motioned for approval of consolidations.

Member Copeland requested that the polling locations be voted on individually.

  • Member Sandoval
    • suggested that all the non-Friendship associated precincts are voted on first before moving on to voting on the Friendship precincts individually
  • Member Copeland
    • suggested bloc voting on all but friendship and Gainesville 1/Riverbend
  • Kelli Persons, Program Manager, League of Women Voters
    • pointed out that Morgan and Friendship are connected–their precinct lines would change depending on the vote
    • the Morgan precincts need to be unbloc’d as well

Bloc vote occurred on all but Friendship and Gainesville 1/Riverbend and Morgan: UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED

Gainesville + Riverbend as a consolidated precinct:

  • Member Copeland (D) is okay with consolidation but wants to leave the precinct at the Civic Center
    • Member Sandoval
      • expressed that he would “love” for the precinct to remain at the Civic Center because it is almost always Republican political candidates that have parties there
      • asked Member Copeland if he was sure he wanted the precinct to remain at the Civic Center
  • Member Copeland reiterated that he wanted the precinct to stay at the Civic Center
    • Member Sandoval
      • expressed his mock disbelieving approval
  • APPROVED: Sandoval, Shippy (D), Copeland (D)
  • OPPOSED: Cochran (R)

Friendship 1 (relocation to the police precinct)

  • Member Sandoval
    • noted that given the current drawing of the lines, there is no alternative to the police precinct
    • the police precinct must be approved or there will be no location for the people of Friendship 1
  • Member Cochran
    • made a motion to accept Hall County Sheriff’s headquarters as a precinct but noted that an effort should be made to find a new location before March (the presidential primaries)
  • Member Copeland
    • suggested redrawing one line to get the library in that precinct and then presumably have a precinct there
  • APPROVE: Sandoval and Cochran
  • DISAGREE: Shippy and Copeland
  • Sosebee, as the tiebreaker, voted for the first time that day to approve the move to the police precinct

Because the boundary lines have been approved for Friendship 1, the boundary lines for Morgan 1 will need to change as well. UNANIMOUS APPROVAL.

Friendship 2: moving polling location and changing the lines

  • APPROVED, unanimous

Friendship 3: moving polling location and changing the lines

  • APPROVED, unanimous

Friendship 4: new precinct location at Spout Springs Library

  • APPROVED

Item B: increasing janitorial compensation from $100 to $200 (note: janitorial compensation is only paid to churches, not government buildings, which would violate regulations on the matter)

  • APPROVED, unanimous

Item C:  increasing the number of advance voting sites. To include only the second Saturday prior to the election–not including runoffs.

  • APPROVED, unanimous

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