The Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registrations will use old voting precincts for elections this year unless it hears from the U.S. Department of Justice on proposed precinct changes by 5 p.m. Friday.
Nancy Boren, executive director of the board, had little hope the Justice Department will answer the city’s request in time to reduce precincts from 48 to 28. “Without a decision from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registrations has decided to approach the general primary using 48 precincts unless information is recieved by the close of business May 14, 2010,” Boren said in a statement late Thursday.
During the elections board meeting in April, members said mid May was the latest the board could wait before preparing for advance voting and the July 20 general primary. Even if the city won approval a week later, it would be too late, Boren said. May 15 falls on Saturday and the elections office is closed on the weekend.
“We’ve got to have 900 military ballots prepared and mailed by June 7. That is the deadline,” Boren said. “We will be behind if they are not done.”
The elections board agreed to the reduce the precincts to meet security demands of the Muscogee County School District at area schools, make use of new technology and save money with fewer precincts. Sixty days after the Justice Department was sent information on the changes, the federal agency asked the city for more details on voters and precincts in March, starting the 60-day clock over to determine if changes met provisions of the Voting Rights Act.
The controversial plan faced support from many residents but opposition from Columbus Chapter of the NAACP, Muscogee County Democratic Party and Edward DuBose, president of the Georgia Conference NAACP.
Marcus Hunter, president of the local chapter of NAACP, said he knew time was tight on the proposal as the elections season grew near. “What it does is give us more time for the community to buy in to make the transition if they do approve all changes the board of elections wanted,” Hunter said. “The bottom line is we want to see results.”
If the Justice Department doesn’t approve the changes, Hunter said he will work with Boren in the grass roots community on educating voters. “It’s not early voting, it’s the entire process,” Hunter said.DuBose couldn’t be reached for comment.