TIFTON – Starting next spring, Tift County voters will all head to the same precinct to cast their votes, no matter where they live.
Sandi Fallin, Tift County Elections supervisor, spoke to Tift County commissioners Tuesday night during their workshop, telling them that the state's Board of Elections has encouraged the local office to consolidate its precincts.
The new precinct, which has been tentatively named Tifton North, will be located at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center, in rooms 19A, 19B and 19C.
Fallin said the Board of Elections took the time to look at the locations currently in use, as well as possible locations for a consolidated precinct, including Mott Litman Gym, the county's recreation department and the Family Life Center at First Baptist Church in Tifton.
"We have gone throughout the county and looked at different areas to see if we could find a location that would suit the needs of the county. (UGA Tifton Campus) is the only location that we felt could hold the number of voters that would come in per hour. We're looking at 300 to 500 voters walking through here an hour to vote on election day," she said.
The location, Fallin said will work not just because it's large enough, but also because there is ample parking, security is provided, and there are backup generators if there is a power outage. The consolidation will also save the county money.
The cost, per use, to rent the rooms at UGA Tifton Campus will be $600. This will include set up and break down of the rooms. Fallin said the move will save the county about $2,000 per election, for a total of about $10,000.
Elections results will also be available sooner, since the need for waiting for precincts to report in will be eliminated.
Fallin said the discussion to consolidate the precincts has been going on for several years, but it was after the elections board heard from a representative from Lowndes County at one of their meetings that the discussion became serious.
"They went from 37 precincts down to 9, and one of them is the size of Tift County," she said. "That is the point that got this whole issue started with us. At that point, we were thinking of going from 12 precincts down to five." Fallin said the speaker told them that if Lowndes can get 20,000 voters through in one day, there was no reason Tift County couldn't have just one precinct.
"We feel like it would work," she said.
Fallin said this move will not affect the voting districts, which will remain the same.
"There will just be one voting precinct for everyone," she said.
If a voter in the farthest points of the county doesn't want to make the drive in to vote, Fallin said they can call the elections office and ask for a ballot to be mailed to their home. The ballot can be filled out and returned via mail.
Precinct 1, Tifton Northeast, will be relocated as an Election Day polling place to the conference center, along with the other 11 precincts. Tifton Northeast will be designated as an advanced voting and city voting location only.
The new precinct will be used for the first time in March 1, 2016, Fallin said, for the presidential preference primary.
The next Board of Elections meeting will be held Sept. 21 at the UGA Tifton Conference Center, at 6 p.m. The public is invited to attend and express their concerns or ask questions regarding the consolidation.