While it was encouraging to see civic involvement in high gear at our Election Commission Meeting on Monday evening, it was also disappointing in many respects.
The first concern is that not every voting district in Cannon County was represented. Second, not all comments and remarks were rude or short sighted, but some were. Individuals would claim to be presenting "facts" yet go the extra mile to muddy the water and omit both relevant and important information, as well as aspects of the discussions that led to the … ”unanimous” decision to change the polling locations on November 7, 2011.
Several Citizens spoke up during the meting stating they were “tax paying” citizens and therefore our boss. Others spoke as if "all" tax dollars spent in Cannon County originate in the Short Mountain and Pleasant Ridge communities. It was believed that those affected would be more understanding.
The Election Commission, after lengthy bi-partisan discussions, scrutinizing all expenditures for our Annual Budget, voted unanimously on the final submission to the Cannon County Commission Budget Committee and the Commissioners. This Budget was cut by the Commissioners in their efforts to reduce costs from every Department Head in Cannon County. I commend their efforts to reduce costs and save tax payer money. However, they were advised that the Law required them to approve or deny this Budget, rather than cut it. When the full Cannon County Election Commission met on November 7th, the Election Office was still trying to operate on a budget that had been significantly reduced.
At the November Election Commission Meeting, the cost cutting aspects of reducing our County Wide Polling places was discussed in a robust manner. We discussed that “one” Polling place at West Side serviced about 1824 voters. The “one” Polling place at Woodland serviced about 1569 voters. The Pleasant Ridge Polling place located in Woodbury (out of their voting District) only serviced about 425 total voters. After early voting, only about 137 voters actually voted at the Polls in the last election. There were 5 Poll Workers (4 @ $120.00 per day and 1 @ $140.00 per day) working 12 hours.
While thoroughly discussing Short Mountain and Pleasant Ridge poll places, and the cost per voter aspect of multiple voting locations in the same district. It was obvious that we could reduce the number of Polling Locations and save our Citizens’ money. In fact, Commissioner Patrick stated after discussing the multiple locations that serviced smaller voter numbers …”well that don’t seem right.”
This low voter volume meant considerable dead time with no voter activity, to which Commissioner Patrick stated “you’re right, they don’t do much”. After discussing that these changes the Full Commission was making would not be agreeable to some citizens, Commissioner Gannon stated “somebody’s going to gripe about what ever you do, no matter what you do”. Both individuals were still in full agreement with reducing the locations. In fact, two full weeks after the meeting, they were still in agreement.
I received a total of four calls from Citizens from Short Mountain residents regarding this matter, with all but one, just days before the meeting. Two of the Citizens I spoke with told me that both Commissioner Patrick and Gannon had already told them, they were going to reverse their votes at our January meeting and that they needed one more Commissioner to side with them for a voting majority, in order to restore their Polling locations.
Citizens should consider, that two full months ago, the entire Election Commission voted and instructed Administrator of Elections-Stan Dobson to prepare for our 2012 Elections with these changes in place. Mailings went out. Newspaper updates were posted. Voter Lists updates and machine programs revised. Tax payer money spent, from a Budget that had already been reduced. These actions were taken based on deadlines that must be met.
The initial action taken by the Election Commission was lawful, helpful and cost effective — when ALL the County Citizens’ factors were considered. This difficult, but obvious decision was not reached in order to place hardships on anyone. Our voters in West Side and Woodland have many miles, many large hills and dangerous roads, yet only one polling place each.
If Citizen input or “will” is to impact a County wide decision, for our Flip Flopping Commissioners, did they consult ALL OTHER voters before deciding to waste Cannon County money? Did they make any efforts to consult the OTHER districts for input, before they revealed they were going to reverse their votes and unravel the actions they knowingly took? Considerable additional work hours will need to be worked to undo the mess. There is no wisdom in directing a Department Head down a two month plan of costs and direction, and then pretend it wasn’t the right path to begin with.
Additionally, I presented a Resolution supporting the Voter Photo Identification Law which took effect this month and provided relevant information Voters need to know. Two of these same Commissioners voted against this resolution claiming not to support this Law, even though it is current law and we will have to follow it to the letter. This Photo ID Law does help secure and protect each vote cast.
Some of the comments posted on the Courier Website, boldly claim the undesirable miles and routes to drive in order to go vote, but never mention the convenient options of early voting and absentee ballots. Deliberate?
I sincerely think that ALL Citizens should work harder to look at the Big Picture regarding Taxes and Wise Management and how it impacts everyone, rather than be single focused. We all need to man-up and face the facts that ALL belts will need to be tightened as best we can for the good of the whole County.