Compromise on Bibb voting sites could be coming

At a gathering that proved more cordial than contentious, the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections listened Tuesday to a handful of locals’ concerns about possibly trimming the city’s number of polling places from 40 to 26.

The board is scheduled to vote on the proposed cost-saving measure Wednesday afternoon, and at Tuesday’s meeting there were hints of compromise.

About 20 people attended Tuesday’s meeting at the Board of Elections office. Some of them were part of an advisory panel created by the board to hear suggestions and worries and voice complaints about the plan.

In general, some people fear that cutting the number of places to vote will discourage minority voters, creating longer lines at the polls.

Quinton Tard, who headed the advisory committee, said there was confusion already among some in the community about recently altered voting procedures and that shuttering some precincts “would only serve to suppress voting.”

Tard, reading from the committee’s report, said, “The public input was to increase voter turnout, not suppress it.”

Bibb Commissioner Elaine Lucas, who spoke at the meeting, said, “We’ve got enough to confuse voters as it is, so why add one more thing?”

Addressing the elections board, she said, “I look forward to you going back to the drawing board on this, and where it makes sense -- I can see closing some places -- but where it also makes sense, I see you putting in place a site to replace that.”

As the meeting drew to a close, some board members said they appreciated the input.

Mike Kaplan, a new member of the board, said, “I do have a lot of concerns about what we are trying to do. And perception to me is the most meaningful word.”

He said the board had “work to do” on the proposal, that some form of compromise was in order, where “we can save money, where we can also come up with a secondary, satellite voting location for early voting.”

Kaplan mentioned downtown’s Terminal Station and the Coliseum as possible spots for advance voting.

“I’m not sure that this proposal,” he said, “goes towards making a community that everybody is in favor of ... without everybody getting in a tizzy about it.”

He said if the measure is voted down, the polling places would stay open.

To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.