WARNER ROBINS -- Houston County voters should look closely at their voter registration cards, according to city and county officials, because they may need to report to two separate polling places on election day.
“I think what has happened is, it’s not usual that we have city elections and county elections at the same time,” said Debra Presswood, a Houston County Board of Elections clerk.
As the voter registration deadline of Oct. 11 approaches and early voting is set to begin one week later, some residents are learning they’ll have dual polling locations.
Typically, county elections are held during even years, and city elections in Centerville, Perry and Warner Robins are held during odd years. This year, however, voters already casting ballots in city elections also will vote on a proposed education special purpose local option sales tax in the county.
An unknown number of residents throughout the county will vote at their city polling location for open City Council seats on Nov. 8, and then need to travel to their county polling location to vote on the E-SPLOST.
“It’s primarily in Warner Robins,” Presswood said, though some Centerville and Perry residents also will have two locations.
Presswood said the dual precincts cannot be avoided, at least this year, because the county districts do not line up with the three cities’ districts. Federal laws require that municipal districts represent an equal number of potential voters, based on population and demographics.
Houston County officials and city officials would like to review options to streamline those districts, Presswood said. But, she said, it’s too late for this year and would be a lengthy process.
In Warner Robins, there are six precincts for a city population of 66,588, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Perry and Centerville have one polling place each for populations of 13,839 and 7,148, respectively. Houston County has 24 polling locations for the county population of about 139,900.
Presswood and Warner Robins City Clerk Alton Mattox said there are a number of ways a voter can obtain information about their polling location: registration cards, the Georgia Secretary of State’s website and calling City Hall.
“There’s also that map (for Warner Robins residents) on the city website,” Mattox said, though the map is only for the city precincts. “They just enter their address, and it tells them where to go.”
The online map was created this month because Warner Robins redistricting has changed the polling location or district for 19,994 voters, according to city Elections Superintendent Vida Rawls. Presswood and Mattox said they did not know how many residents will have two polling locations this year.
However, Presswood recommended voters consider early voting, which opens Oct. 17. Anyone can vote early, she said, plus all Perry residents would have the same polling location -- the Houston County Board of Elections office in Perry -- for both the city election and E-SPLOST referendum.
“You have a longer time to vote, and then, even if you have to go to two locations, you have 21 days,” Presswood said. “But, then, it’s up to each voter.”
Presswood said voters may also apply for absentee ballots. As with early voting, there are no special requirements, but the ballots must be submitted before the close of business on election day.
If a voter insists on voting election day, Presswood said poll workers are being informed specifically about the different polling places during their training.
Mattox said Warner Robins does not expect any problems.
“We’re ready,” he said.
To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.