Legislation allows precinct consolidations

PARKERSBURG – Legislation passed this year allowing consolidation of larger precincts may provide options, but may not be workable here, Wood County election officers said.

Passed in March and effective 90 days later, the legislation raises the cap on the maximum number of registered voters in an urban precinct from 1,500 to 3,000, which allows for consolidation of some of the larger precincts. The precinct voter limits were 300-1,500 in urban areas and 200-700 in a rural area.

Wood County has several precincts where there is more than one poll located in the same place, like a school, with the various precincts located in different parts of the same building.

“We have some locations where we have several precincts voting in a school. There was always a cap on the number of voters per precinct, by changing that number, it would allow us to combine some of those precincts into each other,” said Wood County Clerk Mark Rhodes.

But Rhodes said consolidations could create more lines at the polling places, especially during large voter turnouts like presidential election years.

“We don’t want to have big lines at the polls. If we combined them we’d have to increase the number of iVotronics and have another set of pollworkers there, especially in presidential election years when the turnout is always larger, and we could be looking at more lines if we did that,” Rhodes said.

He said delivery of the additional equipment also might be an issue and while it might trim some of the pollworker numbers, he said, economically it would probably not make that much of a difference.

“Logistically I don’t know if it would help, but the changes do allow us the option,” Rhodes said.

Twelve schools have multiple precincts with the largest being Blennerhassett with four, two at the middle and two at the elementary schools, and Mineral Wells schools with four.

“We might be able to only provide two or so from the moved precinct, but while it might eliminate some of those numbers, it could be a trade off economically and we would probably have to have additional maintenance with the machines,” Rhodes said. “I don’t think we’d be looking at a savings or other benefits from changing the precinct size at this point, and we could be looking at longer lines waiting to vote, depending on the number of voting machines we had at the precincts.”

Rhodes said, at least for this voting cycle, he doesn’t think the legislation would be helpful.

“If we had more early voters from those precincts it might be worth considering down the road because if the early vote count is up, that means less people voting at the precinct on election day,” he said. “For now, I don’t think we should do it, but we could re-evaluate it later.”

Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant said another bill passed by the legislature this year will “help strengthen and modernize the notarization process.”

House Bill 4012 adopts the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts from the Uniform Law Commission to replace both the current Uniform Notary Act of 1984 and the Uniform Recognition of Acknowledgements Act of 1971.

The bill includes reduction of a notary’s commission from 10 to five years, requires a $1,000 bond or its equivalent in profession insurance and raises the amount a notary can charge from $2 to $5. This bill also allows for the notarization of electronic documents.

Rhodes said the legislation won’t affect his staffers.

“We only offer notary services on documents that we are recording here in the office, and we don’t charge for that service,” Rhodes said.

The new legislation on notaries is effective July 1.