Bibb voters express concerns with precinct reduction plan

Community members gathered for the second time in a week to discuss a plan to reduce the number of polling locations in Macon-Bibb County.

Thursday’s session, which followed a Tuesday meeting, was led by a citizens advisory council and drew more than 40 people to the Macon-Bibb County Government Center. Support for the plan was scarce.

“I see it creating a serious problem for the citizens,” said Sarah Hunt.

The Board of Elections’ plan would reduce the number of voting locations from 40 to 26. While some of the locations like Jessie Rice and W.T. Morgan schools are being closed, others are being taken out of the mix for different reasons.

In past meetings, accessibility for handicapped voters has been listed as an issue at precincts, but Rolston Mondaizie, pastor of Central Church of Christ, said that doesn’t add up. His church is slated to be removed as a polling location, but the building is just 17 years old and meets all building codes, he said.

“So it’s very accessible,” he said. “We’ve had no problems at all serving the community.”

Mondaizie said he would like to discuss with the Board of Elections the reasons that Godfrey 3, the precinct that currently votes at Central Church of Christ, was proposed to be combined with Godfrey 1 and moved to the Promise Center on Anthony Road.

“We welcome the opportunity to continue serving the Unionville community,” he said.

In addition to questioning the logistics for proposed new locations, the residents who addressed the advisory council also said they suspect an ulterior motive for the changes. John Glover said many of the changes would put a “hardship on the minority and the poor people” by making them travel greater distances to vote.

“I do think there’s some maneuvering, and it’s a plot to discourage the black voter,” he said.

County Commissioner Elaine Lucas, who attended the meeting, agreed with that assessment. Lucas, a Democrat, questioned the need for the precincts to be changed at all and suggested that potential changes were aimed at limiting the participation of Democratic voters.

“It’s a scheme by somebody to cause some problems,” she said.

While budgetary concerns also had been presented as a driving force for the changes at a meeting in January, Lucas, who serves on the commission’s Finance and Operations Committee, said there had been no discussion in committee or commission meetings about lowering the elections board’s budget by reducing precincts.

Instead, she said some areas of the county need more polling locations. The Rutland area in south Macon-Bibb County has just two precincts, one at Mikado Baptist Church and the other at Porterfield Baptist Church.

“I say we need to increase the polling places in Rutland and leave the rest alone,” she said.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.