Current Columbus County voter precincts.
By: Ivey Schofield, The News Reporter
The Columbus County Board of Elections decided Monday to host a public hearing May 24 to get input on its proposal to merge 10 voting precincts into five. It also proposed names, numbers and locations for the precincts that would result from the merger.
“Making it a public process is probably best for transparency,” said Director Carla Strickland. “We don’t want to alienate our voting public.”
The public can participate in person or by Zoom at 2:30 p.m. on May 24. The board will conduct its regular meeting at 3 p.m. and hear public comments at that time.
Strickland stressed that the board’s decision to host a public hearing was “out of courtesy” and therefore not necessary. “We are not required by law to hold a hearing on the precinct changes,” she said. “This board is within its full authority to go ahead and change the precincts and the precinct locations as they deem necessary.”
Strickland noted that there were three reasons for merging these precincts: staffing, building problems and cost effectiveness. She is currently working on analyzing the cost of casting a ballot at each of the precincts.
On Monday, the board discussed combining Bug Hill 1 and 2 into Precinct 34 “Bug Hill,” Bug Hill 3 and West Lees into Precinct 513 “Nakina,” Cherry Grove and Fair Bluff into Precinct 89 “Cherry Bluff,” East Lees and South Lees into Precinct 112 “Lees SE,” and Western Prong and North Whiteville into Precinct 82 “NW Whiteville.”
The merged precinct locations would be be the Pireway Fire Substation, Nakina Bug Hill Senior Center, Fair Bluff Fire and Rescue Department, Old Dock Community Building and North Whiteville Fire Department.
The board authorized Strickland to send letters to the Columbus County Board of Commissioners and the political party chairs, inviting them to the public hearing.
Strickland will provide the board with the mergers resolution during the May 24 meeting.
The board also authorized Strickland to send a letter to the party chairs, asking them to provide three names for each of the 26 precincts (since the merger is not yet official) for consideration to be chief judge and judge. The elections office already provided the chairs with lists of all the registered voters in the county.
“We just need three names, not to say which seats they’ll be taking,” Strickland said.
The board in August will choose the chief judges and judges for the precincts.