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Rogersville BMA wants Election Day voting back at courthouse

Jeff Bobo • Nov 18, 2017 at 12:00 PM

ROGERSVILLE — Rogersville leaders want the city’s new larger voter precinct, which was created by the merger of three smaller ones, to use the downtown courthouse as its voting location instead of Hawkins Elementary School.

As a cost-cutting measure, the Hawkins County Election Commission recently combined the two city precincts (Rogersville North Inside and Rogersville South Inside) with Rogersville South Outside,  which was not in the city but a part of the county’s 5th District.

Rogersville South Outside used to vote at Rogersville Middle School, while Rogersville South Inside voted at the courthouse, and Rogersville North Inside voted at Hawkins Elementary.

The new combined precinct, which has more than 4,000 registered voters, is called the Rogersville 5th Precinct, which now votes at Hawkins Elementary. City residents on the north side of Main Street have been voting at Hawkins Elementary for several years.

As a result of the change, the only voting that would take place at the courthouse would be early voting, although the city could request to use the courthouse for its standalone BMA elections every four years.

Elections Administrator Donna Sharp said the Election Commission chose not to select the courthouse as an Election Day voting location because that would be sending too many voters to the courthouse.

She noted that the 1,300 registered voters who previously used the courthouse created a large crowd, but the more than 4,000 on the rolls in the combined precinct would be overwhelming on Election Day. 

“These are the number of registered voters, but that many wouldn’t actually pass through the polling location on Election Day,” Sharp noted. “Around 50 percent of active voters will early vote. But as of today, the number of registered voters for the Rogersville 5th is approximately 100 less than our largest precinct, Church Hill. We set up five machines at Church Hill Middle School gymnasium on Election Day, but we can only use a maximum of four machines in the courthouse.”

On Tuesday, the Rogersville Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a resolution drafted by City Attorney Bill Phillips requesting that the Election Commission designate the Rogersville 5th Precinct voting location as the Hawkins County Courthouse.

The resolution states that city residents have historically cast ballots in municipal, state and federal elections at the Rogersville courthouse.

The resolution further states, “The Board of Mayor and Aldermen of the town of Rogersville believes it is in the best interest of its citizens, particularly business owners and merchants in the downtown area, that historic downtown Rogersville be promoted by the encouragement of its residents and others to visit downtown Rogersville and become patrons of its shops and businesses. The BMA is concerned that the diversion of voters from the courthouse in downtown Rogersville to a polling place outside the area of downtown Rogersville is detrimental to the continued viability and development of historic downtown Rogersville.”

Phillips is expected to make that case before the Election Commission when it meets Dec. 11 at 3:45 p.m.

The resolution was approved by the BMA 6-0.

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