BOARD OF REGISTRATIONS AND ELECTIONS, MACON-BIBB COUNTY: APRIL 21ST, 2016 MEETING

In attendance:

Cassandra Powell (Chairperson, D)

Herbert Spangler (R)

Mike Kaplan (I)

Rinda Wilson (R)

Ronnie Miley (D)

…..

Charlene Maynard (Administrative Assistant)

Jeanetta Watson (Elections Supervisor)

Judd Drake (Assistant County Attorney)

Gerald Harvey (State House Candidate, District 142)

Gwenette Westbrooks (President, Macon-Bibb NAACP branch)

Charles Coney (Assistant County Manager, Macon-Bibb)

Carol Spain (citizen)

Dr. Ficklen (citizen)

Pre-meeting Conversation, Regarding the NAACP, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law & People’s Agenda-organized April 20th Press Conference on the Issue of the Move of a Voting Precinct from Memorial Gym to the Sheriff’s Office

Member Miley: People fought too hard and too long for the right to vote. We didn’t do anything out of malice. We had to find somewhere for people to vote. If you close a precinct down, that’s where [we have a voter suppression problem].

Chairwoman Powell: It ain’t no problem. It’s the safest place to vote. The same effort you [the press conference organizers] put into that, we would love the same effort [to help inform voters about where the new precincts are located].

Citizen, Carol Spain: excuse me; anybody who got a felony can’t vote anyway.

Chairwoman Powell: [agrees] you can’t, you can’t

Member Miley: If you have any concerns about impropriety, just put a couple of poll watchers there.

Chairwoman Powell: There is a reason for low voter turnout. Ask these people out there petitioning yesterday–do you vote?

Member Miley: somebody asked me about the petition thing and I said, “you don’t need to have a petition [to voice your concerns to the board]!”

Chairwoman Powell to citizen Spain: you’re a good example. You were born and raised over there [in Godfrey 2 precinct area, the affected precinct].

Public Comment

Carol Spain: I live in South Macon. We live off Antioch Road. I have no problem whatsoever with the precinct being what it is because I feel it’s more safe, for several reasons. For one, my grandson got shot at Memorial Gym a couple years ago. I’d prefer to vote [at the sheriff’s office]. I would love to see more people understand why we want to be somewhere where we don’t have to worry about our safety.

New Business

a. FY 2017 Budget Proposal

  • $1, 162,000 = cost of new space not including the furniture.
  • Under budget for 2016.

b. Discussion of letter from the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law objecting to the relocation of the Godfrey 2 (Memorial Gym) polling location to the Sheriff’s District 2 office.

Attorney Drake: we received a letter from [above-mentioned parties]. One legal issue they raise is that the notice of the polling location change was not properly advertised. I looked into it and I think they are correct. We need to post notice of the change once a week for two weeks, and then the board can vote on it. We have time. The 60-day period applies to changing precinct boundaries.

Member Miley: I’m satisfied with the location of the sheriff’s precinct. My only request is that we make a notice. I think what we need to do as a board/as a community is to encourage people to exercise their rights to vote and not make excuses [as to why they can’t vote]. To the organizations [responsible for the letter]: I’d like for them to help us to encourage people to get out and vote and also to help us to advertise/get word out about the fact that we now have a second early voting location. There was no malice on our part as to the location. We had to make a choice. We needed to keep it in the boundaries and we know that a lot of people walk to the polling places. I think there are maybe a few things that we did not consider, I think we did consider the opportunity for people to vote.

Chairwoman Powell: Attorney Drake is now proposing that we put this ad in the paper, to be in compliance of the law.

Attorney Drake: this would be a notice of the proposed change. There will need to be a called meeting, in two weeks, [to effectuate the move].

Member Miley: I make a motion that our staff send out the notice [of the polling change].

Member Miley: have we sent out any [precinct cards]?

Supervisor Watson: yes. Generally, we usually post an ad in the paper that the precinct had been moved. But now we’re learning that these codes are in effect and that we need to abide by these codes [so they already sent the precinct cards].

The board will meet to formally move the precinct on Tuesday, May 3rd at 9:30am.

Old Business

Assistant County Manager Coney updates the board on the build-out of the new space.

Member Wilson: [Turns to Attorney Drake] Mr. Lawyer, do we have to have two weeks notice on the fabric selections?

Other Business

Supervisor Watson: we have been communicating about Lonzy Edwards–about the suspension of his campaign [for Macon-Bibb mayor].

Lonzy Edwards Suspends Campaign

Member Miley: we also have a candidate who is no longer running. The gentleman running against Miriam and Mr. Harvey. That [removal of the candidate from contention] was done by the judicial court.

Supervisor Watson: His name is on the ballot. By history, generally, Kennesaw State Center for Elections will call me on the day of the election to take his name out, so those votes don’t tabulate. 

Residency Challenge: Frank Austin

Public Comment

Gerald Harvey: I did want to comment on the Memorial Gym site, which has been moved to the police precinct. Now personally, I don’t have any problem going into a police precinct to vote. However, there is a concern in this community in the African American grid especially—there’s a lot of doubt with them going into a police precinct to vote. I am a candidate and that is one of the precincts that I represent. I would like to see you reconsider placing the precinct in that station. There is ample time to do it and there are other, suitable locations around there. I know there was no malice on your part to do anything to harm the community…but as much as these concerns have come up, I would ask that you would reconsider.

Gwenette Westbrooks: On behalf of the NAACP, we’re just asking for your consideration in considering another location for the memorial gym. I know that some people say that you can vote early and that it may not have been done intentionally. But because of that…people will be disenfranchised. If you have a felony, you aren’t able to vote anyway but also…Sheriff Davis is working hard to restore the trust in that community for the police. But we’re not there yet. In canvassing the community, a lot of older people don’t have a problem but they said that it should’ve been moved somewhere else. People from the ages of 18-40, when I said “police precinct,” they said they’re not gonna’ go up there. It may be too late for May, I don’t know, but we need to look at reconsidering for November.

Carol Spain: I live in that neighborhood. We’ve been over there for 58 years. I personally prefer the precinct over Memorial Gym. My grandson was shot at Memorial Gym. I personally don’t go to Memorial Gym, even before he got shot. There are a few minute people who have a problem who don’t even live in south Macon.

Gwenette Westbrooks: I was born and raised in south Macon, so I’m familiar with that area and the relationship that the police and the community have.

Dr. Ficklen: I respectfully disagree with both my friends–Ms. Westbrooks and Mr. Harvey–about this precinct. I think it’s much too late to do this, considering that people have already gotten notifications saying this is the place it will be at. Memorial Gym has always been a place where there have been concerns of safety. There was a shooting while we [his church basketball league] were there at the gym. I don’t see where we need to raise this much concern. There are 1,543 registered at Godfrey 2. In the last election, only 292 voted. Early, absentee, and E-Day voting. If we think that’s going to deter those 292 people from coming, I think we’re considerably off base. What we need to do is get people in that precinct to vote [at all].

On provisional voting, when people go into vote, they can only get the provisional ballot for the location they showed up at. [According to him, what should happen is that each precinct should have the provisional ballots of all the precincts, so that if someone shows up at the wrong location, the precinct can provide them with the right provisional ballot.] In order to guarantee that no voter is disenfranchised from voting for the candidates that they are registered to vote for, I think the provisional ballots for each of the precincts need to be in each of the precincts.

Member Kaplan: Chairman Powell had already addressed that. We don’t know whether we can do that or not.

Supervisor Watson: we can’t do that. [Indicates that the provisional ballots each precinct would have to provide would number in the thousands.]

Dr. Ficklen: it sounds to me like somebody just doesn’t want to do some work.

Supervisor Watson: In the code, there’s a law that says: if they’re at the wrong precinct, whether they have time to get to the right precinct or not, you give them a provisional ballot. Early voting [precinct locations were] set up to accommodate every voter in the county. For Election Day precinct locations, they were set up to separate [voters by boundary lines]. I’m not saying that it’s not something we would be willing to do. However, the state of Georgia does not require that by the counties.

Member Spangler: suggests that the board does some research and come back to the issue at a later date.

Gerald Harvey: expresses concerns that individuals who have already voted for a now-disqualified candidate (who Harvey was running against) will now want to change their vote.

Board: there’s nothing we can do.

Supervisor Watson: we will place a notice on the doors of the polling locations. We can’t open the [already-cast] ballots.

Attorney Drake: I would recommend that Ms. Watson as Elections Supervisor and express that this concern has been raised and to find out our options.

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