Voting machines on tap for city elections

Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Brookhaven citizens for the first time will use voting machines during this year’s city elections, following an agreement approved Monday by Lincoln County supervisors.

     New Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Dustin Bairfield presented the proposal during the board’s first meeting of 2013.

     “They’ve always used paper (ballots),” Bairfield said of city elections. “This will be a first.”

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     Bairfield said the county owns the machines, which were purchased a number of years ago with federal money. He indicated city use of the machine will be a positive move.

     “I think it’ll be a good thing for them and make it faster on election night,” he said.

     Brookhaven City Clerk Mike Jinks agreed.

     “All the other elections you have, you use those machines,” Jinks said when contacted later Monday. “I just think it’s a better system.”

     Jinks said city officials inquired about use of the machines for the last city elections in 2009. However, after hearing an estimated cost, they opted to stay with paper ballots.

     This year, Jinks said software setup costs for up to three elections – party primaries, runoffs if needed and the general election – are estimated at around $12,000. There will also be ballot printing and poll worker training expenses.

     “I’m looking in the neighborhood of up to $15,000,” Jinks said.

     Jinks emphasized city political party executive committees would be conducting their respective party’s primaries on May 7. The Brookhaven Election Commission will oversee the general election on June 4.

     Voter familiarity with the election machines and the time factor involved in counting votes were other positives that Jinks mentioned. Also, with only six polling places to be counted in the city, he mentioned that Bairfield will have an opportunity to get more familiar with the election process before the next countywide election that will involve 32 precincts.

     “I think it’s a good, cooperative thing,” Jinks said.

     In other business during Monday’s supervisors meeting, Tax Assessor/Collector Rita Goss said 10 bids were received for aerial mapping of 21 area counties. The maps are needed for property taxes and 911 purposes.

     Also included were bids to map only Lincoln County. Those bids ranged from $17,900 to $64,000.

     “That’s all we know right now,” Goss said.

     The bids are currently under review to insure they meet specifications and criteria. Officials hoped to know more Thursday.

     Goss said the mapping effort needs to start by Feb. 1.

     The need for repeated mapping by multiple agencies for various purposes drew the ire of Board President Nolan Earl Williamson later in the meeting.

     Williamson questioned why the mapping could not be done once and then shared among agencies that need the information. He said that was common sense.

     “Is that too simple?,” he asked.

     With Monday being the first meeting of a new year, supervisors reappointed all current county office deputy clerks and other personnel. Williamson was re-elected board president and District Four Supervisor Eddie Brown was again chosen as vice president.

     In one change, John Whitaker was named county fire investigator to replace Bairfield, since he’s no longer with the sheriff’s department. Clifford Galey and Blake Wallace were named as deputy fire investigators.

     In a somewhat light-hearted moment, a move to replace chairs used by supervisors and other officials around the board meeting table was rejected.

     The issue struggled to get a motion before District One Supervisor the Rev. Jerry Wilson offered a motion that was seconded by Brown. It then failed on a 2-3 vote.

     “I’m fine with the way they are,” said District Two Supervisor Jimmy Diamond with the current chairs.

     The current chairs were donated to the county in 2000. Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop later estimated the cost for the replacing the eight chairs would be several hundred dollars each.

      Supervisors were expected to travel to Jackson Tuesday to attend activities related to the opening of the 2013 state legislative session. Williamson urged his fellow board members to avoid partisan issues and remain focused on needed funding for road and bridge improvements.

     “To fix a road, we’ve got to have money. To fix a bridge, we’ve got to have money,” Williamson said. “And for us to have money, they’ve got to appropriate it.”