Macon-Bibb county weighing options for new elections office, early voting location

Macon-Bibb County leaders are weighing options for moving a cramped elections office as a busy 2016 election calendar looms.

County Manager Dale Walker said about six locations have been looked at as possibilities for relocating the Board of Elections office. Macon-Bibb is looking to find an ideal place that fits its budget.

Macon-Bibb’s 10-year lease on the elections office on Pio Nono Avenue ends in June. This fiscal year, the cost to taxpayers is $103,000, and officials are looking into whether there is a way to move earlier.

“We’re just looking for a place we can afford where it’s accessible to bus routes for the public,” Walker said.

A new location would provide much-needed space that becomes even more difficult to manage during early voting, said Charlene Maynard, administrative assistant at the elections office.

“We’ve really outgrown this place, and I’m sure (county leaders) have to look at the cost factor,” she said.

There is support from the mayor’s administration to move the elections office, but some of the sites previously mentioned have proved too costly, said Macon-Bibb spokesman Chris Floore. They included a $1.4 million price tag for a location at the State Farmer’s Market in Macon and $1 million to move into a vacant building on Eisenhower Parkway. Both those sites were studied when the city-county looked at moving the Tax Commissioner’s Office and Senior Citizens Center, Floore said.

The county also is considering opening a second polling place for early voting.

If there is a change to early voting, voters have to be informed at least 60 days before the first early ballots are cast. The 2016 election cycle includes the U.S. presidential primary in March and is followed by a May primary/general election that includes Macon-Bibb commissioners and other officials on the ballot. A general election will be that November.

“We also have to think about a moving timeline that’s a smooth transition,” Floore said. “We don’t want any confusion and want people to have proper notification.” Commissioner Virgil Watkins said he understands the desire by the elections office to relocate. Long lines that voters faced during early voting is just one of election officials’ problems.

“They’re in a situation where they don’t want to go into this election cycle doing it the same way,” Watkins said.

A second early voting site would be beneficial for people who want to vote closer to where they live or work, Maynard said.

One of the suggestions for a satellite location for early voting is the Monument Room in the Macon Coliseum, she said.

To contact writer Stanley Dunlap, call 744-4623.