WASHINGTON COUNTY – Washington County voters could a reduction in voting precincts by the next election cycle.
Supervisor of Elections Carol Rudd and county commissioners discussed the possibility when the Washington County Board of Commissioners met regular session Wednesday.
Rudd states several commissioners have questioned the necessity of the county's 16 precincts over the years, and that statistics from recent elections indicate the time has come to address the issue.
Rudd points to a continued trend of decreasing Election Day voter turnout as well as an upcoming update to the polling system that will report results as early as 15 minutes after polls close as factors for consideration.
"Should all polling precincts remain open, there could be a significant cost increase to the county - about $30,000 annually - to pay for the use of the new voting equipment and to pay poll workers," said Rudd.
Rudd has not yet identified which precincts are being considered for closure, but she is expected to meet with County Commissioner Tray Hawkins to discuss what criteria will be used to make the selection. Rudd will make a recommendation to commissioners later this summer.
“Where we are technologically in the world is why we have to take steps to be to keep up with voting statutes," said Rudd. "By Florida Statute, early voting is to be open a minimum of eight days," she added. "Washington County allows a full two weeks for voter convenience."
Rudd said despite the possibility of precincts closing, she wants to assure voters every effort will be made so that there will be minimum inconvenience.
“I want voters to know that if their precinct does close, they will not have to go farther than a few extra miles to exercise their right to vote," said Rudd.
The county hopes to have the new equipment up and running by the next election cycle, which will be August 2018. The offices on the August 2018 ballot will include Governor, county commission, and school board seats.