BOARD OF REGISTRATIONS AND ELECTIONS, CHATHAM COUNTY: MARCH 14TH, 2016 MEETING

In attendance:

Ernestine J. Jones (Vice Chairman, D)

Marianne Himes (R)

Malinda Hodge (D)

Thomas J. Mahoney (Chairman, I)

…..

Lynn Trabue (Assistant Elections Supervisor)

Russell Bridges (Supervisor)

Chairman Mahoney: Just came off the sheriff’s election and the primary, which all went very well. Preparing for runoff. Also have the special election to fill Rep. Bob Bryant’s seat coming up, plus qualifying.

Treasurer’s Report

Supervisor Bridges: unfortunately, it didn’t go out Friday, as intended. The only real significant item is $6500 for EasyVote annual license fee (a budgeted item). Also note the $90,570 for the bearer checks March 1st.

Motion to approve Treasurer’s Report. Approved.

Correspondence

  1. Proposed response by the board regarding the audit of 2014. We’ve implemented changes in every area, including bearer checks, since the audits. A lot of improvements have been made.
  1. A citizen filed a complaint against the Chatham County Board of Elections with the Secretary of State’s office. The complaint alleged that the citizen never received a precinct card in the mail and received misinformation from the board of elections about his registration status. According to the citizen, the board of elections informed him that they could not help him sort out his registration status and that he was on his own. The Secretary of State’s office has informed the Chatham County Board of Elections that there is no need for the board to attend the upcoming State Election Board meeting because the Secretary of State’s office has not found the Chatham County Board of Elections to have violated any laws or regulations in this matter.

Budget

Potential April 1 meeting to devote more time to the budget.

Member Rauers: We were thrown a curve at a meeting last year, when only the board members could ask questions, not the citizens. I would appreciate a hearing preceding this, because it was very strange last time, in my opinion.

Member Heimes: Is there a standard procedure for such a thing?

Chairman Mahoney: I agree with Debbie’s comments that we need to figure out how to address this. I suggest that Russell offer some date suggestions. I know we’re all concerned about the budget discussion because it’s very involved. In any event, we’re certainly going to need to have a meting, in addition to the April 11th meeting.

*A member of the public enters the room and presents a letter to the board. The letter contains a qualification challenge of a candidate running for an elected position in Chatham County.

Supervisor Bridges: We need to discern whether there is merit to the challenge. It is the challenger’s duty to make the challenge and it is our duty to discern whether the challenge has merit.

Chairman Mahoney: once we open that envelope, we can start to figure out what’s inside it.

Recap: special election & presidential preference primary

Supervisor Bridges: 44% overall turnout. As in any election, there were some issues. On that given day, there were no major issues.

Sheriff’s election resulted in a runoff, happening on March 29th. Same date as the special election.

Some balancing issues that delayed the poll closures that day. Trying to understand the underlying reason these polls had issues with their paperwork. Also, there was a precinct where a poll manager left their card in the machine.

Member Rauers: did you commit the conversation you had with that poll manager to writing? In the form of an email?

Supervisor Bridges: no. I called her that night.

Member Rauers: we need to be keeping track of these issues, because there may be poll managers who should no longer be poll managers. If you don’t have a paper trail, that’ll make things difficult, going forward.

Supervisor Bridges: several days after the election, Member Rauers showed me a photo of a bearer check sitting in the back of the office, unsupervised. We’ve instituted a lot of controls on bearer checks since the audit two years ago. The one element that failed here is handing bearer checks back to the control person.

Member Rauers: this is really bothering me.

Supervisor Bridges: it bothers me too. That’s cash. That’s a $100 bill laying on the table that someone can walk off with. We have a procedure for when they’re issued, transferred, and returned. And the process for returns failed. Because I didn’t know about it that night, I don’t have a clear path as to who left it on the table.

Member Rauers: one of the things that surprised me is that somebody from this office goes and picks up $100,000 in a box from somebody at finance and drives back. To me, that’s not really a safe procedure. I feel like there should be more oversight.

Chairman Mahoney: Everyone here agrees that those checks shouldn’t have been left out like that. But just because the checks were left there—in error—doesn’t mean that there is an issue in the system or that Evelyn Hunt (who supervises this process) didn’t do her job.

Supervisor Bridges: the system we have is working better and better every time. The fact that Ms. Hunt was not here when the person came in and left the checks on the table is how this happened. Ms. Hunt is our single point of control within the department. I think we have a system that we’ve developed [that works].

Member Heimes: If Ms. Hunt needs to leave, she needs to designate someone to be in charge of those checks in her absence. There are a lot of people that would be capable of doing that. We just need to have someone designated.

Member Rauers: that’s not a suitable solution to me. I think the finance department should oversee this [, not us]. I think we need to have a second audit. I think at this point we need to be a little proactive and ask if the finance department could provide someone.

Member Hodge: I don’t think it’s necessarily the fault of the person in place. Every time you have money, theft and dishonesty will always be a factor. But beyond that, safety of the transporter is also a concern, especially when the transporter is handling that much money [$100,000.]. If we could get an escort, that would be a good idea. If we could come up with a procedure that streamlines it a little bit more; I don’t know if that’s feasible or not.

Supervisor Bridges: I think there are two things that should remain the way they are: 1) pay poll workers on Election Day (not later) and 2) not switch manual entry re: cutting the checks.

Member Rauers: why can’t we pay these poll workers through direct deposit?

Supervisor Bridges: that would be very complicated. [Member Heimes agrees.]

Member Rauers: Motions that the finance department make a presentation of some proposals to the board re: the best way to handle the bearer checks and the personal checks. No second. Motion fails.

New Business

Runoff & special election

 Chairman Mahoney: I’m very impressed with the way stuff is being done, because we have some very tricky stuff with this special election. The biggest issue is that there are going to be 19 precincts holding two elections on March 29th. We need to make sure we have the equipment and processes to handle two elections on that day.

Supervisor Bridges: 70 polls that are just having runoff for sheriff on March 29th. 19 have the runoff for sheriff + special election. Each of these elections is separate and distinct. Will require distinct: voting machines, express poll devices. The cutoff date for registration was March 7th. When a voter comes in, they’re going to be presented with two opportunities to vote. We’re keeping the operations separate so there’s no confusion. The voter will process through the first election and then process through the second election (if qualified to vote in both). There will be signage to clearly delineate the distinction.

The management staff of the 19 polls will be trained on how to manage these polls. All 19 sites were visited/evaluated.

There was one poll that was a potential problem (Senior’s Center) that may have been a problem, but that problem has been corrected.

Member Rauers: do we have a list of those polling places?

Supervisor Bridges: yes. I don’t have it here, but I can provide you with a copy of it later.

We’ve spoken to the tv stations about this and are pulling in the media to help us advertise these elections.

There will be Saturday voting this coming Saturday and early voting starting next week.

Poll Changes

(not an action item today because we haven’t had enough time to advertise these changes, in a legal sense).

Precinct 712: facility representatives requested us to move before March 29th. They told the board in advance of the 1st of this month. From Christ Presbyterian to the Fuller/Pooler Church.

Precinct 56: the week before we went to the election, facility representatives said we had to move by the election. We have a new facility secured. Wildwood to the Seed Church.

To meet state requirements, we need to be advertising these changes before we officially request approval to. I will run notices in the paper in advance of the move + signage + a media release. These polls will be moved before the March 29th election.

Training

Member Rauers had suggested in a prior meeting that poll workers should be paid for additional training they’re now required to do.

Supervisor Bridges: we required all active poll workers to take initial training a few years ago and chose to pay them for that training. Partly because it was a non-election year [,freeing up funds].

Member Rauers: are we not requiring both the online and the hands-on training?

Supervisor Bridges: we are. When we decided that they had to do both, we did not decide to pay them separately for each. One of the main reasons to recommend additional pay for training is because the expectations for the workers are now higher. There are so many exceptions to the standard voter this way that we’re having to be creative to figure out how to train these people effectively. We still are not where we need to be.

Member Rauers: I personally would like to see a piece of paper with a list of things that these poll workers are required to do before we certify them. E.g. “you’re expected to complete this online training by x date,” etc. I think $50 for both trainings is a start. Because it takes a good 4.5 hours for some people to finish it all. There are a lot of people who called me and expected to get paid for the last online training. One woman was livid and said she was never going to work for us again because we don’t keep our word re: payment. Also, people who take and pass the test (even if they’re not called on to serve as precinct workers this cycle) should also be paid, because we may need to call on them as backup poll workers on election days.

Member Heimes: I agree with a lot of what you said. I think it’s important that we pay them well and absolutely make it clear when and for what they’ll be paid.

Member Rauers: at this point, I feel like we owe people money if they completed that training already.

Member Heimes: I agree and if we owe people $20 that they did not receive, then I move that we pay them.

Supervisor Bridges: there were rumors circulating that these people would be paid for that second training, but that doesn’t mean we told them they would be paid for it.

Member Hodge: it’s a usual assumption that, for your time, you’ll be compensated in some form.

Supervisor Bridges: the last time we did this (paid them after the fact), it took us three months to get all those checks cleared. This is one area of bearer checks [that is problematic]—if we issue them a bearer check, they have to sign for it. If we issue the checks personally instead, we’d have to write 500 personal checks. [There’s no easy solution here.]

Member Rauers: can we just get $20 for all these people and cut them checks? It’s not worth it to lose potentially great poll workers over this.

Supervisor Bridges: I would highly suggest against trying to pay them separately now. If they’re working the upcoming election, it could more easily be incorporated into those payments.

Member Heimes: [withdraws her motion from earlier]

Chairman Mahoney: it seems that there’s a lot of agreement to pay more for upcoming training (and of course we need to first see if we have the money for it).

Member Heimes: motions that we increase the amount of pay for training, budget allowing—going from $20 to $40 for training, effective for the April training. Member Rauers seconds. Motion passes.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s