PARKERSBURG - A plan to reduce Wood County's 86 precincts to 69, reducing election costs and increasing the number of precincts that would be accessible to those with disabilities, was unveiled Thursday to county commissioners.
Wood County Clerk Jamie Six, along with Melody Ross, deputy clerk in the voter registration office, presented the plan, which Ross said will not change existing district lines for the county commission, board of election, legislative or council districts. Vienna City Council candidates run at large so they would not be affected.
"As we have seen, the dynamics of election day have changed over the years, with the increase in early voting numbers and addition of community vote sites. When I first came into office, the county had 119 precincts, in 1990 that was reduced to 99 and in 2000, it was reduced again. I challenged Melody and Elizabeth (Beary) if you could get the number down to 69 the board of canvass would be saved money, we'd only have to handcount three precincts instead of four, and the handcount usually takes longer than the board rulings on the provisional ballots. They came back with a plan," Six said.
Photo by Pamela Brust
Wood County Clerk Jamie Six and Melody Ross, deputy clerk, present a proposed plan to precinct consolidation, which takes the county’s 86 percents down to 69.
The proposal would save an estimated $13,125 in election expenses, in addition to staff time.
Six said if the plan is approved as proposed, some of those savings can be shared in the form of pay raises for pollworkers.
"If you give the proposed pay raise, from $175 to $200, the county would still see a savings of $6,732.50. Giving the pay raise will be an incentive to attract new pollworkers, and help the county to keep established pollworkers," Six said.
Proposed Precinct Changes
* Precinct 8, which now votes at the Day Report Center, would be consolidated into 1 at Parkersburg City Building.
* Precinct 16 at 16th Street Fire Station will be consolidated into 23, Precinct 23 would be moved from McKinley Elementary, which is not accessible to those with disabilities, to the 16th Street Fire Station, which is more accessible.
* Precinct 17 (Woodman Hall) would be consolidated into 10 (Good Shepherd Church), and 13 (Jefferson Elementary).
* Precinct 24 (Jefferson) would go into 19 (Emmanuel Baptist Church) and 29 (Parkersburg High School) and 17 (Woodman Hall).
* Precinct 31 (VanDevender Middle) into Precincts 32 (Madison) and 34A (VanDevender).
* Precincts 36C (Worthington) into 36B (Hamilton Middle).
* Precincts 37B (Parkersburg Catholic) into 37 (Hamilton Middle)
* Precinct 37D (Parkersburg Catholic) into 37A (Criss Elementary)
* Precinct 37C (Worthington) into already consolidated Precincts 37 (Hamilton) and 37A (Criss).
* Precincts 42 (Vienna Library) into 41 (Vienna Library)
* Precinct 44 (Jackson Middle) into 45 (Vienna Elementary)
* Precinct 44A (Vienna Elementary) into Precinct 45A (Vienna Elementary)
* Precincts 46A (Westminster Presbyterian) into 46 (Greenmont School)
* Precincts 51 (Williamstown Elementary) and 52 (Williamstown City Building).
* Precincts 66 (Lauckport Baptist) into 69, (Franklin Elementary) the consolidation would eliminate the polling place at Lauckport Baptist Church, which is not accessible for those with disabilities.
* Precincts 74A (Franklin) into 74 (Precinct Franklin)
* Precincts 87 (Mineral Wells School) and 89 (Mineral Wells School).
These moves will eliminate as polling places: McKinley School, Woodman Hall, Westminster Presbyterian Church and Lauckport Baptist Church, which are not accessible to those with disabilities. Also eliminated as polling places will be: Wood County Senior Citizens Center, Worthington Elementary School, Parkersburg Catholic High School, and Jackson Middle School, all of which are handicapped accessible.
"With these changes, the number of registered voters at the consolidated precincts will be higher so there is also the potential for higher turnout and more work for the pollworkers," Ross said.
Ross presented a table showing a breakdown of pollworkers in other Class I counties of the state. Among 13 counties, Wood ranks ninth. The highest paid pollworkers are in Jefferson County, who receive $300 for election day service and training. The lowest is Monongalia which pays $150 for election day and training. Supplies commissioners and those pollworkers who serve as escort for the supply commissioners are paid slightly more for additional work.
"We have met with officials from Vienna and the city of Parkersburg, they reviewed the proposals to make sure they did not affect any current district lines and representatives of both parties' executive committees were provided with the proposals as well," Ross said.
"Making these moves will also mean 11 precincts that are now not handicapped-accessible would go down to seven if the proposal is approved as presented," Ross said.
The commissioners gave the clerk's office the go ahead to begin the next stage in the process, which is to begin advertising notices for meetings during which the proposal will be presented and the public will be allowed to comment.
"There will be other savings realized because we won't need as many different ballot styles and related costs," Six said. "We estimate it would be well over $7,000 in savings per election you would save if the proposal for the pollworker pay raise is granted."
"My committee has reviewed it and we love the fact it would save the county money and anything we can do to motivate more people to serve as pollworkers, is good. It is getting more and more difficult to get people to serve," said Harold Brown, chair of the Democratic Executive Committee. The political party executive committee provides the names of pollworkers and alternates for the election. "We'd appreciate your support on this," Brown told commissioners.
Six said voter registration numbers are up somewhat because his office can no longer purge voters for failure to vote as quickly. Under current law, after four years of non-voting, the voter is listed as inactive but remains on the books for another three years, for a total of seven years. So, although it may appear there will be more voters at the polls, in fact, the numbers may not be that high.
Parkersburg City Clerk Connie Shaffer said the proposed changes will not change the city's current district lines. "We're very happy with what the county has done," she said.
Vienna City Clerk Carla Starcher said Vienna's council is elected at large so districts were not factor for that race.
"But we are thrilled to work with the county, and I know what a tough job it is to try and find pollworkers," Starcher said.
"I do know it's hard to find pollworkers and I would be in favor of doing the pay raise, especially since it's not costing the county anymore and we would still be saving money," said Commissioner Steve Gainer.