To the Editor:
To my fellow Morgan County citizens,
The Board of Elections is considering reducing the number of polling places in our county from 11 to five. They estimate potential cost savings at $19,000 to $35,000 annually in years with general elections.
Early voting options have been embraced by local voters – the reason cited for making the change is that 53 percent of votes cast in the 2012 general election were either early or absentee, and the Board projects the number could be 60 percent in the near future.
Morgan County voters did turn out at slightly higher rates than state average in the 2012 general election – 74 percent vs. 72.2 percent. We can and should do better. There are at least two additional, but overlooked, stats. Voters in the eight precincts outside of Madison were much more likely to vote in person at their precinct than Madison area precinct voters – 52.6 percent vs. 35.4 percent. And voter turnout at the eight rural precincts was slightly higher than the Madison area precincts – 74.7 percent vs. 72.5 percent.
In light of that, I urge the Board of Elections to reconsider. Perhaps consolidate the three Madison polling sites to one, which reportedly works for City of Madison elections currently. Keep the remaining eight rural polling places intact. Expand early voting by adding a second Saturday to the schedule.
And please, urge your Board of Elections to adopt improving voter turnout as their primary mission, with cost savings a significant but secondary goal.