GALLIPOLIS — The Gallia County Board of Elections has voted to combine all single precinct locations into seven county-wide polling locations.
To clarify, the number of precincts remains at 26 — only the polling locations have decreased in number, going from 21 to seven. The remaining polling locations will all house multiple precincts.
Director Chris Burnett and Deputy Director Eric Whitt told Ohio Valley Publishing that a number of factors were considered before making the decision and in the end, the change brings significant benefits.
Burnett said postcards will be mailed out around mid-March from the Board of Elections to every voter whose location is changing.
“Our plan is to kind of put this out there continually over the next couple of months, so hopefully we’ll cover everybody,” Burnett said.
The Board said there are three main benefits to the move to combine precincts — fiscal responsibility, security and efficiency and early and absentee voting.
Over the years, recruiting poll workers has been increasingly difficult. Combining the polling locations of precincts will allow elections to run efficiently with a smaller number of poll workers — centers can lawfully reduce workers by 50% — allowing the county the opportunity to save or reallocate up to $40,000 every four-year election cycle, according to the fact sheet provided by Burnett.
The Ohio Revised Code allows non-public facilities to charge a user fee for elections, by using public buildings/locations with no fee, the county will save more than $3,500 every four-year election cycle.
The cost for ClearCast voting machines and electronic poll books during the election cycle will also decrease with the decrease of wear and tear, also saving on consumable supplies, according to the fact sheet.
“Testing will be easier, setup will be easier. They’ll just streamline, be more efficient,” Burnett said. “An advance in security, we’ll be more secure, I believe.”
Burnett said they have spoken with the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office about the change as well.
“They said that doing this will allow their deputies during their normal course of duties to check into different locations throughout the day,” Burnett said.
It will also make it easier for Burnett and Whitt to travel to locations if needed.
“The furthest one [precinct] away was [a] 35-minute drive from Gallipolis,” Whitt said. “Now it’s seven locations, if something — not saying anything’s going to happen — but if something happens, if we need [someone] it will be a lot easier.”
Burnett said each voting location will have at least two ClearCast machines and multiple signing stations.
According to the fact sheet, election security is also increased as there will be a smaller chain of custody.
According to Burnett, that county has witnessed an increase — a rate of 60% over the last few election cycles — in early and absentee voting, some of which he believes is due to COVID-19.
“Ohio is a leader in early in-person voting, allowing up to 28 days of early voting. This includes hours in the evenings and on Saturdays and Sundays,” the fact sheet said.
This is not the first time the Board has combined locations for efficiency, the First Baptist Church has hosted several locations since 2019, Burnett said. He said the multi-precinct location has “worked really well.”
Originally the county had 21 total precincts but with the change there will be a total of seven.
An updated listing of polling locations and their precincts is as follows:
- Addaville Elementary School — Addison Township, Cheshire Twp, Addison Precinct;
- First Baptist Church — Gallipolis City 1, Gallipolis City 2, Gallipolis City 3, Gallipolis TWP;
- Gallipolis Christian Church — Green Township 1, Green Township 2, Green Township 4, Green Township 5;
- River Valley Middle School — Morgan Township, Bidwell Precinct, Springfield Twp 1, Springfield Twp 2;
- South Gallia High School — Clay Township, Guyan Precinct, Guyan Township, Harrison Twp, Ohio Township;
- Southwester Elementary School — Greenfield Twp, Perry Township, Walnut Township;
- University of Rio Grande – Heritage — Huntington Twp, Centerville Pct and Raccoon Township.
The Board of Elections is currently accepting applications for early voting which starts April 5.
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Brittany Hively is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @britthively; reach her at (740) 446-2342 ext 2555.