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Clerk: Cost to double voting precincts in county would be high

March 18, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - County Clerk John Small said Thursday that the cost to double the number of voting precincts in Berkeley County could be as much as $200,000 - a figure that one county commissioner disputed.

County Commissioner Howard Strauss said the cost likely will be far less.

The County Commission wants to increase the number of voting precincts from 59 to 120, in part to handle growth and smooth out population numbers within some existing precincts.

Each of the county's six magisterial districts should have 20 precincts in it, the commissioners said.

Every registered voter in the county would need to be notified of his or her new precinct number and receive a new voting card.

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Bonnie Woodfall, who works in the county's voter registration office, said the county has 54,423 registered voters.

Along with postage costs, the county would need to pay for new equipment at polling places, she said.

Strauss said it should cost no more than $43,520 to mail out information to voters, but he did not provide a cost estimate for the required polling place equipment.

The commissioners said they want to create 18 new precincts by Jan. 1, 2006, and leave the rest as "sleepers" - meaning the precinct number would exist, but no voters would use it until needed.

For continuity and to avoid confusion, precinct numbers should be consecutive, the commissioners said. To give two examples, precincts in the Adam Stephen District should be numbered 1 through 20, and those in the Norborne District should be numbered 21 through 40, the commissioners said.

Currently the Norborne District contains precinct Nos. 1, 2, 9, 10, 38, 40, 42, 44, 50 and 55.

The commissioners voted 3-0 to undertake the project.

Small and others with his office were reluctant to take on the task, pointing out the needed personnel and cost.

The commissioners discussed adding two full-time clerks to Small's staff to handle the project.

"The value of doing this, in my opinion, far outweighs the cost," Strauss said.

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