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Commissioners complete election district map

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Hot on the heels of a 2012 legislative redistricting, the Jefferson County Board of Elections has completed an overhaul of the county’s election districts, bringing the number down from 93 to 70.

The changes, which are required to keep in line with the new legislative map, are also aimed at simplifying the electoral process for the administrators and voters.

“It costs us a lot of money to have districts we don’t need and it confused the voters,” said Jerry O. Eaton, Republican election commissioner.

For each district, the board needs to hire four election inspectors. The inspectors are paid $200 per day.

The board will save the county $18,400 every general election by reducing the number of districts. The number of polling places will remain at 47.

According to Mr. Eaton, the Board of Elections budget has grown immensely over the last 10 years as the state shifted the responsibility for running elections from local municipalities to the county.

Comparing presidential election years, in 2004 the board’s budget was a little more than $254,000. In 2012, it had climbed to more than $827,000.

“If we can help the county administration and legislature cut costs ... it’s a win-win,” Mr. Eaton said.

Voting technology has also changed significantly.

Democratic Election Commissioner Babette M. Hall said it would be hard for someone who had left the board 10 years ago to adjust to the system in place now.

“I’ve been here the longest, so it’s going to be hardest for me,” she joked.

The old lever machines once used by the county, phased out in 2009, could accommodate only 999 voters at a time. Election districts were based on the number of voters the machines could handle.

The new machines can handle upward of 2,500 ballots, enabling numerous voting booths at each polling place and rendering the lines of the previous election map obsolete.

“With such a drastic change in the way voters are voting, it only makes sense to change the election districts,” Mr. Eaton said. “Once the voters get used to it they’ll be happy with the streamlined plan, I hope.”

Mr. Eaton said with the new machines there is “a lot of legwork in the front part of the election,” with more testing of voting machines in advance.

The reduced number of election districts will “save time, paper,” he said.

The legislative redistricting, which is based on information from the latest census, is intended to ensure districts are “as close to each other in size as possible,” said county Deputy Administrator Michael E. Kaskan.

When the Board of Supervisors ran the county, votes were weighted according to the district population.

Now, keeping districts the same size enables the “one-man, one-vote” edict of county law, which stipulates that each legislator have equal voting power on the board.

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