Residents of St. John Towers and Peabody Apartments will have to explore other options to cast a vote in the 2014 elections.
On Monday, the Richmond County Board of Elections failed to pass a substitute amendment that would omit the two polling locations from the board’s precinct plan, which was approved at its Nov. 18 meeting.
The plan calls for consolidating several smaller polling locations with larger sites, and could save the city about $15,000 on each location that closes, Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey said.
With Monday’s decision, residents of St. John Towers will now have to vote at May Park, Bailey said. Peabody Apartment residents will report to Crawford Avenue Baptist Church.
At least a dozen St. John Towers residents attended Monday’s meeting to voice their concerns. Connie Shiver, who is wheelchair bound, asked the board to consider the disabled voters before proceeding with the plan.
“Many of us would have to pay for transportation,” she said. “That would take money away from our already low income. A few residents have said that they would simply not vote.”
Shiver added that many St. John residents were military veterans who fought to protect the right to vote.
Board member L. C. Myles proposed the substitute amendment after hearing Shiver’s remarks, and joined Terence Dicks as the only members to vote in favor of the motion.
Board member Sherry Barnes suggested to the board that the affected voters had ample opportunity to voice their concerns before Monday’s meeting, including an off-site public hearing at the Augusta Library headquarters on Telfair Street.
“We gave everyone the opportunity before we voted to give us their input,” she said, as audience members shook their heads in disapproval. “This was not done, so we moved forward with the information we had.”
Vice chairman David Barbee followed Barnes by asking the board to consider the amount of work that it has put into the plan.
“This was a thoughtful process,” he said. “This is not knee-jerk.”
After the 3-2 vote, Bailey said the board can now move forward with preparations for the 2014 election cycle.
“At this point we will change what we need to change in our computer systems and notify the voters of the change,” she said.
Part of the plan, Bailey said, is to educate voters on alternatives to on-site voting, including mail-in ballots and early voting periods.
St. John Tower resident Mary Wolfe said she hopes that the board will reconsider its plan.
“When they get to be this age, they’re going to feel the crunch that we’re in,” she said. “All I can do is pray and ask God to show them what a mistake that they’re making.”