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Church asks for second voting precinct in Hogansville

A local church is hoping to establish a second voting precinct in Hogansville.

The staff at St. Paul A.M.E. Church has asked that the church be considered as a second voting precinct in the city, but the church is concerned that the board of elections has not tried to make it happen. 

Hogansville’s one voting precinct is currently located at the Hogansville Public Library. 

“I began a conversation with (Board of Election Supervisor) Andrew Harper in early February about helping the Hogansville community with voting registration and understanding the new voting machines,” said the Rev. Frances Hunter of St. Paul A.M.E. Church. “We ordered 600 voter registration applications to help citizens register.  Andrew Harper agreed to come out and demonstrate the use of the new voting machines. Of course, everything came to a halt because of COVID-19. I also asked Andrew Harper about creating a second voting precinct at St. Paul.”

Hunter said that during their conversation Harper said that the approval was needed by the City of Hogansville. 

“It wasn’t until much later that I found out that the only approval needed was from the members of the Troup County Board of Elections,” Hunter said. 

According to Board of Election Chairman Bill Tatum, approval is needed by both the city and the board to create a new precinct.

“The city must approve it because it will cost them money, and they have to have the funds in their budget,” Tatum said. “Once the city approves it and we have inspected the building to make sure it meets criteria to make sure it has enough parking, ADA access and everything is inclusive or if it’s storming there is shelter, then we can go from there. We will look at all the numbers and propose for redistricting. We would then vote to approve or not approve this as a second precinct.” 

Hunter said she was able to get in touch with Mayor Bill Stankiewicz about the matter on June 13. 

“We have to approve it because it is going to cost us money, and we will have to budget for poll workers,” Stankiewicz said. “We have a say but not the final say. I didn’t hear anything about it until June. I don’t think it’s a question of support for the idea of a new precinct. I think it’s a question of how.” 

Hunter was put on the election board agenda on July 16 to present a formal request to the board. 

“We met on Webex, due to COVID-19, to discuss my proposal,” Hunter said. “It was agreed that Andrew Harper and members of the board would table the proposition until they could come out to look at St. Paul. Andrew Harper has not been to the church, yet.”

Tatum said he has tried to visit the facility and get in touch with Hunter following their meeting but has not been able to reach anyone. 

“I was just out there yesterday too and went three times but no one was there,” Tatum said. “I don’t know if anyone else has been able to make it out there either. Once it does meet the criteria and the board and city council approve it, then it moves forward.” 

Tatum said he has no reason to believe that Harper would steer the church in the wrong direction on purpose like Hunter is accusing him of. 

“Harper said she mentioned it briefly in conversation when he was doing the voter machine simulated process but that she took no formal action following that conversation,” Tatum said. “It was June when she came and spoke to us and several other church and community members. We listened tentatively and noted that they sincerely desired this.”  

Hunter said she has not been able to get in touch with any Hogansville City Council members recently. 

“I have emailed them twice,” Hunter said “I called one city council member who refuses to return my calls.” 

St. Paul’s wishes are to make the church a new precinct by the November election, which Tatum said is possible if everything is approved and the church meets all the criteria. Tatum also noted that the church was added to agenda for the meeting on Aug. 20. 

Harper said he is not making a comment on the situation and is leaving it to the board. 

“There is word coming from the church that Harper purposely drug his feet on the matter, but that is not true to my knowledge,” Stankiewicz said. “I will say this though, Hogansville is going to do everything it can to get voters to the polling place. We are offering a bus service on election day for free. We are committed to getting people to the polls.” 

Hunter said she feels that the elected officials are not interested in making it easier for citizens to vote in the upcoming election. 

“There is a lot at stake in November,” Hunter said. 

“I imagine we will get a huge number of people voting. If we do not have a second voting precinct, the lines will be that much longer during a season when we have inclement weather. The wait will also be longer due to COVID-19 and the requisite social distancing.”

Tatum said he plans to continue following the steps to determine if the church will be added as a second Hogansville precinct. 

“Our purpose is to serve everyone,” Tatum said. “We volunteer to serve [this community].”