Voter Reform Begins in Madison County, Alabama:

This story appeared in my local newspaper today:

The story details the steps that Madison County commission members want to accomplish to make voting easier...CLOSE SCHOOLS ON ELECTION DAY, USE SPECIFIED POLLING PLACES IN ALL ELECTIONS, AND EVALUATE THE EFFECTIVENESS OF POLL WORKERS.

Huntsville Times
Saturday, November 20th, 2004

Easier absentee voting, relocated polls considered

By David Holden
Times Staff Writer

Relaxing absentee voting rules and moving polling places from churches to public schools were among the ideas discussed Friday at the first meeting of the Madison County Election Reform Commission.

The commission was created earlier this month by the Madison County Commission to address problems voters experience in some precincts on Nov. 2.

Most of the problems were encountered in Madison, where some voters stood in line for hours only to be told they had waited at the wrong polling place. Precincts in other areas experienced long lines requiring voters to wait up to an hour before getting a chance to cast their ballots.

County Commissioner Faye Dyer, who represents the Madison area, said the reform commission might ask the Legislature to change the absentee voting law to allow more early voting, cutting down on some of the long lines at the polls.

"Why can't people cast an absentee without stating that they have to go out of town?" Dyer said. "Why do you have to state a reason at all? Its not of the government's business why you want to vote absentee."

The commission consists of all six members of the county commission, the canvassing board, the board of registrarts, the mayors of Madison and Huntsville, and county chairmen of the Republican and Democratic parties.

County Commissioner Bob Harrison proposed that the membership of the Election Reform Commission include representatives of the Alabama Democratic Conference, the New South Coalition and other political-activist groups. The commission approved the proposal.

To study election issues and address problems encountered during the election, the commission formed four subcommittees Friday:

***PRECINCTS: County Commissioner Morris "Mo" Brooks, who is chairman of the Election Reform Commission, will chair this subcommittee. It will determine how many voters should be assigned to each precinct and conduct a "flow study" to determine how efficiently precincts are working and how many poll workers are needed.

***SCHOOLS: Dyer will chair this subcommittee, which will study whether moving voting precincts into schools is feasible. The panel will discuss with the three school boards in Madison County whether it would be feasible to close schools on election day. Dyer said issues have continued to crop up over using churches as polling places. Some people complain that it violates the separation of church and state, she said. "In my 16 years on the commission, that has been the most-cited objection I've heard," she said.

***MADISON: Mayor Sandy Kirkindall will head this subcommittee. It will determine how many additional precincts will needed in Madison to efficently handle the flow of voters. That group will also identify where the new precincts should be located. The goal is to make sure the established voting places are used for all elections in Madison.

***ELECTION PROCESSES: Harrison will chair this subcommittee, which will study how precincts work on Election Day. The panel will look at everything from how much poll workers and inspectors are paid to ways to assist handicapped voters and mothers pushing strollers. Poll workers are paid $70 to $80 a day and poll inspectors $100 to $110, said County Attorney Julian Butler.

The Election Reform Committee will meet again in February. It will amake its recommendations to the county commission next spring, Brooks said.

Informant: emcain79


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