Residents advised of polling location changes in area
3 voting precincts consolidated due to cost elections
The Barry County Clerk's Office has consolidated voting precincts in three different locations around the county.
The changes will be in effect for the next election on March 15, the Presidential Preference Primary.
Gary Youngblood, Barry County clerk, mailed a letter advising all registered voters in the affected precincts of the changes on Oct. 23, 2015.
The reason for the consolidations is due to increasing election costs, Youngblood said.
"The biggest cost is the programming, and [to pay] the four election judges to have a precinct open alone is about $400," he said. "It's a 14-hour day, and that's not a whole lot even for that. So, it saves that much if you consolidate the precincts. And you've got a voting machine, there's an expense to program that. The only way I know to reduce those costs is to consolidate the precincts."
Youngblood said in one rural precinct, for instance, they may only have 35 people voting, which is not cost-effective.
"I hate to make people travel, but nowadays, we all go different places all the time," he said. "I hate to inconvenience people, but most people understand."
Due to the rural nature of the county, combining voting precincts is nothing new.
Several years ago, Youngblood said he consolidated the Pleasant Ridge and Kingsbury precincts, and also combined the Viola precinct with the Shell Knob precinct. And before he took office, the McDowell precinct was combined with Purdy, the Ridgley precinct was closed, the McDonald precinct was combined with the Cassville rural precinct and the Mineral Springs precinct was combined with the Cassville rural precinct.
The consolidations will definitely help save the county money, but it is too early to tell exactly how much.
Because all elections are unique, Youngblood estimated the consolidations would save the precinct about $1,200 right off the top.
"That's just in collection workers [and paying the judges]," he said. "Each election, you have a different number of ballots to print, but I'll know more in April. It might not be an enormous amount of money, but I still have the old adage, 'A penny saved is a penny earned.'"
The three precincts being consolidated are as follows: The Ash precinct will be combined with the Washburn precinct, and will now be voting at the Washburn First Baptist Church Activity Center in Washburn; the Capps Creek precinct will be combined with the Monett rural precinct, and will now be voting at the Church of the Nazarene in Monett adjacent to the Farm Pro Feed store across from Herds Gas station; and the Crane Creek precinct will be combined with the Ozark precinct, and will now be voting at Madry Christian Union Building on Highway 39.
In the Ash precinct, 465 voters will be affected.
"It has one of the smallest in the county," Youngblood said. "Washburn has 690. Monett rural used to be in Monett city, and they had over 3,000 voters. So, I combined [Monett rural] with Capps Creek, which had 419 voters, so that was a pretty small one. So, now those two together have 844 voters.
"I consolidated Crane Creek precinct, which had 583 voters with Ozark precinct, which came to a total of 1,194. I still have some precincts like Golden, Eagle Rock and Jenkins that don't have a large number of voters, but with the lake, it's hard to consolidate those people without having to drive a really long way. They are so isolated, it's hard to consolidate them, and have a facility to house them."
Voters in the affected precincts may have to travel a little farther to place their vote, but not by much.
"I don't think any of these people will have to drive that far," Youngblood said. "Crane Creek to the Christian Union building is probably 10 miles max. Capps Creek is about seven miles. The Mineral Springs people have to drive close to 15 miles, and they've done that for years."
Overall, Youngblood does not feel the changes will impact the number of residents who show up to place their vote.
"I don't think it will have any effect on the outcome [of voters]," he said. "If they're like most people, they come to town anyway. We're so mobile nowadays."
Absentee votes are available for any voters who will not be able to travel to the new polling locations due to physical limitations. Those residents will need to contact the clerk's office at 417-847-2561 for instructions on placing an absentee vote.
Youngblood did not think the changes would impact the number of absentee voters, either.
"Some people just like to go to the polling place," he said. "They like to see their neighbors. But, either way, they always have that option. Every election is different, so I can't ever say that something is set in stone."
Youngblood has been county clerk since 1995, and in addition to voting precincts, oversees a variety of duties including bills, payroll, county commission and other duties.