After weeks of debate with County Commissioners, the Wake County Board of Elections Monday approved the creation of the two voting precincts Commissioners are willing to fund.
Elections board members had previously requested 12 new voting precincts to alleviate long lines and crowded parking at the polls. Commissioners denied that request, instead allocating $83,000 for two new precincts and to convert temporary positions to permanent.
Elections board members said they will continue to “educate” Commissioners on the need for 10 more precincts. Members say they have a “statutory duty” to create more districts and insist that more are needed to enable everyone to vote on Election Day.
Meanwhile, the board agreed to use the given funding to halve two of its biggest precincts — 05-04 in the Cary/Morrisville area and 20-02 in the Cary/Apex area.
Precinct 05-04 has 7,115 voters and precinct 20-02 has 9,427 voters.
Wake County Board of Elections Deputy Director Gary Sims said the determined splits were based on factors such as voter numbers, as well as potential population growth.
Even with the approved splits, the precincts will still have high voting numbers. Sims said precinct 05-04 would ideally be split three ways. Precinct 20-02 would be split five ways.
“It doesn’t matter where you go; it keeps getting more saturated,” he said of precinct 20-02, where he predicts continued growth. “[We] can’t get a handle on how big it is going to get.”
The split still requires final approval from the state’s Board of Elections executive director.
In their efforts to obtain funding for 12 precincts, Elections Board members asked Commissioners for the funding from reimbursements paid by the municipalities after the election.
Commission Chair Paul Coble sent an immediate response, reminding the Board of Elections of the earlier approval of additional funds.
He wrote their budget for next fiscal year “totals $3,573,437, an amount the Board of Commissioners deems reasonable for a non-Presidential year election.”
“Any decision taken by the Board of Elections needs to fall within the amount of funds allocated to the Board of Elections,” he wrote. “Any action that attempts to further obligate the Board of Commissioners would be deemed irresponsible and ill-advised.”
Deputy County Manager Johnna Rogers said the municipality reimbursements could not be used since it “is already factored into the budget, so that does not provide you with a revenue source.”
Rogers also suggested cutting the number of one-stop voting sites in order to finance the other 10, but the Board of Elections has not decided whether it would do so.
But they’re not giving up on the other 10 precincts. Elections board members sent a follow-up resolution and notice to county officials calling for Elections staff to “take all reasonable efforts to split precincts 05-04 and 20-02 in advance of the October/November 2011 elections.”
The resolution also states the board should “continue in its efforts to educate the County Commissioners about the pressing and urgent need to commit full funding to split the remaining 10 precincts ASAP.”
Wake Board of Elections Director Cherie Poucher said board members hope to accomplish this through further meetings with Commissioners in order to present information on the voting districts and demonstrate the need for the additional precincts.
“It just seems that we should be on the same page, working together for the good of the county,” said Elections Secretary Aida Doss Havel.
Poucher said she feels that time is running out for the Board of Elections with voting season coming up and stressed the importance of letting the board continue to work on splitting these precincts.
“The main goal for myself and staff is, the elections are fast approaching, and we need to continue focusing on that,” Poucher said.