Bibb County Sees Historically High Voter Registration
When Macon-Bibb County voters go the polls this spring, they’ll use new voting equipment and might even vote in a new location.
Elections supervisor Jeanetta Watson said nearly 115,000 people are now registered to vote.
“That’s a historical high for Bibb County,” Watson said Thursday. It suggests that nearly every person old enough to vote in Bibb County is registered.
The spike comes through automatic registration at the Department of Drivers Services and the politically active climate, she said.
“A lot of it is politics and the nature of the beast that it is right now,” Watson said.
Primarily due to construction projects, the board of elections permanently shifted three voting precincts ahead of the Presidential Preference Primary on March 24 and county nonpartisan elections May 19.
People who normally vote at the East Macon 5 precinct at the Delores A. Brooks Recreation Center at 3326 Ocmulgee East Blvd. will now cast ballots at the Swift Creek Baptist Church at 4354 Jeffersonville Road.
“It’s really closer to the voters,” said Henry Ficklin, chairman of the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections. “Brooks is on Ocmulgee East Industrial. Nobody lives there. When you get over to Swift Creek you have communities. The poll manager told us how much she appreciates us moving it.”
The Howard 4 precinct at the Theron Ussery Recreation Center at 815 N. Macon Park Drive also is undergoing construction so its voters will move to the Seventh Day Adventist Church at 640 Wimbish Road.
Vineville 6 voters who previously voted at the Forest Hills United Methodist Church at 3187 Ridge Ave. will now vote at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer at 390 Pierce Ave. which is at the corner of Ingleside Avenue.
Elections staff has been inspecting all 31 precincts making sure they are accessible, secure and have enough electrical capacity to handle the state’s new voting machines.
Since hundreds of pieces of new equipment arrived Monday, elections tech Clarence Maynard has been moving boxes and checking inventory in cramped quarters at the rear of the office at 2525 Pio Nono Ave.
The county’s old voting machines have been moved to a storage container outside of the building where they will remain until the Secretary of State’s office collects them.
“Over 700 pieces of equipment we have to get rid of,” Maynard said. “I inventoried three times and double-checked because there’s no room for error.”
Maynard and the staff are unpacking the new technology and making sure all the components are included in the boxes. Backup battery packs also are on the way to keep machines running for up to four hours if the power goes off.
New voting equipment is stacked in the rear of the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections where Clarence Maynard said they’re running out of room and moved 700 pieces of the old system to outside storage.
Credit Liz Fabian
The 422 touch screen tablets are being charged to 100 percent before they go to the precincts.
Maynard is hoping to get early access to voting sites where the tablets, printers and tabulators have to be set up and tested.
“I will call precincts to see if I can start Friday dropping them off,” he said.
The new process calls for voters to insert a card into the machine to pull up the ballot on the touchscreen. Once they cast votes, they print out the ballot and insert it in the tabulator which keeps the paper ballot in the event discrepancies or alleged tampering will require a hand count.
The elections office has a machine set up in the lobby so that people can try it out before the election.
Thursday, a couple of senior citizen voters gave it a test run and decided it wasn’t much different from what they’re used to.
The major variation is the printing of the ballot. Poll workers will be watching to make sure no one walks off with the paper instead of inserting it in the tabulator.
Macon-Bibb County needs about 100 poll workers to staff precincts.
Watson plans a workshop Saturday, Feb. 8, from 9-2 p.m. for any Bibb County resident, 17 and older, who is a U.S. citizen interested in working on Election Day.
Workers make between $100 – $205 for working the election and $50 for training.
The Secretary of State’s Office also has a Student Teen Election Participant, or STEP program for 16-year-old students who can work up to six hours, with permission from their parents or guardians. Eligible students will get credit for being in school if they successfully participate in the STEP program.
“It helps students get civically involved,” Watson said.
Sample ballots for the March 24 primary are now available at the board of elections website, but the Special Election for Macon Water Authority District 2 has been canceled as Merritt (Jay) Johnson III was the only person to qualify for the post held by the late Javors Lucas who died last fall. Johnson is expected to be sworn in toward the end of March.
Interim Commissioner Sheddrick Clark could not run for the seat because he lives in Lizella, outside of District 2.
At the January board of elections meeting, Ficklin expressed concern that someone outside of the district was appointed, but Watson said the authority’s charter does not prohibit that.
Johnson, who owns Country Financial Insurance on Arkwright Road, will have to run in the May nonpartisan election if he wishes to continue to serve on the authority.