The Polk County Election Commission voted in January to relocate both the Turtletown and Copperhill voting precincts to the Ducktown Community Center, but state law will not allow the move so soon. The Election Office later said there was a minimum of 45 days required before the first day of voting to move precincts. Early voting begins February 10th.
During their monthly meeting, Election Administrator Steve Gaddis said he thought the current Turtletown precinct was out of the picture. He said there was about a mile difference between the furthest Ducktown voter and the Turtletown voters from the Ducktown Community Center. Gaddis said they were not consolidating the precincts, just re-locating it until they could do something better. Gaddis said putting all three precincts together would save money, and said the commission had cut his money for election workers. He said they do all three precincts together for early voting, and it would be a repeat of that.
Mac York said all it would take to solve the issue would be to talk to Charles Hickey. York said everything Hickey owns would be left there and said Hickey was “one of you guys.” Gaddis said he was “not cooperating.” York said Gaddis seemed to be getting every bit of information from Hickey. Nathan Hitson said he got the lease from Register of Deeds Kandi Bramlett.
Anna Clark asked what the downside of putting the precincts together would be. She said when she was campaigning, the majority didn’t even know where they were supposed to vote anyway. York said sit was on their registration card. Several board members suggested not everyone had a card anymore. Gaddis said the boxes wouldn’t change. He said the only thing to change would be the amount of traffic through the building. He said they voted 300 people through the office in Benton during early voting for the sheriff’s race last year, and couldn’t imagine there being that may. Gaddis said they also had a lot more parking in Ducktown than in Benton.
York said there would be people standing around everywhere. Gaddis said campaigners would be the worst problem. Pete Davis said there wouldn’t be as many problems on election day as during early voting.
Hitson said there were 3900 registered voters and 20% voted during the last presidential primary.
Davis asked if there would be one returning officer for all three boxes. Gaddis said it would be whatever Nashville said. He said he did not want to run 3 precincts worth of staff, saying his budget was cut. Gaddis said there would be less problem if there was machine trouble because everything would be in one place.
York repeated that they could stop the whole turmoil by telling Charles Hickey they were having it there. Gaddis said they had nearly been sued over handicap accessibility there and that the bathrooms were not accessible. He said the building needed major repairs and he did not want a lawsuit. York said it had not been an issue in the past. York said he did not want to see people having to drive all over the county to vote, and pointe out some older people can’t drive and need to be hauled.
Clark said they were at the wire and something needed to be done. Gaddis said sooner or later something would need to be done with Springtown and Grassy Creek, too. He said most of our precincts were small and that Hamilton County had thousands of people per precinct. York said they were not rural. Davis made a motion to move all three precincts to the Community Center. He, Clark, and Ron Oneal voted in favor. York voted against. Freeman Curbow passed. Despite the vote to put all three precincts together, state law will not allow the move so close to election day. Precinct locations will remain the same for the March election.
Election Commissioners also put locks on absentee and early voting boxes and discussed the upcoming training session. Gaddis told the commission on Friday he had “fought war” over the the travel money.
Gaddis said meeting times for the training had been changed by Mark Goins in Nashville. He said they normally go in on a Sunday, and start the training on a Monday, so that is how he booked the hotels. Gaddis said he had been unable to get an agenda, but found out the meetings start on Tuesday.
Gaddis said he determined that if commissioners were driving to Pigeon Forge it was a full day of business, but that amount had been cut in half. He said they [the County Executive’s Office, which provides the checks for reimbursement] cut Monday off and took the hotel money away. Gaddis said he was cut a check for $1300 and it should have been $1900.
Gaddis said the rooms were already paid for on his credit card, so the commission would go up Monday anyway. He said he would take his loss, and asked commissioners to do the same. They all agreed to pay for their own rooms for the additional day. Freeman Curbow asked what the $280 given to them covered. Gaddis said that was their mileage and food per diem at $51/day. Gaddis said what flustrated him was that he turned in his paperwork and no one called him or said it was different or that there was a problem, they just “slam-bam” do what they want. He said it would hurt his budget.
Mac York said they had not been turning in mileage when they go somewhere to eat. He said they should be writing their mileage down when they drive. Gaddis said they tried to take money away, saying the conference was feeding them. York said he would eat where he wanted to eat, what he wanted to eat. Freeman Curbow asked if the Election Office budget covered all of the money for the training or if it was county money. Gaddis said it was all covered out of his budget and wasn’t costing the county a penny. York was upset that his wife had been brought into it, saying he had never turned in anything to pay for his wife, and that he even drank water at meals to keep the price down.
Gaddis said he turned in a cover sheet with food, mileage, and hotel costs, “then the attack came.” He said he argued and fussed and was not going to give in. Gaddis said the trip was worthwhile and he was not going to let them force commissioners to lose their training.