LISBON - The Columbiana County Board of Elections is proceeding with plans to consolidate polling places as a way to save money and operate more efficiently.
The board agreed at Thursday's meeting to consolidate 20 precincts into 10, half of those involving polling places where two precincts already were located in the same building, which would have no effect on those voters.
The consolidations, which were outlined in detail in a previous story, are in East Liverpool (three precincts), Salem (three), Columbiana (one), Wellsville (two), and St. Clair Township (one).
The consolidations would go into effect starting with the Nov. 2 election, except for a precinct in East Liverpool and the one in St. Clair Township. Director Adam Booth said they would prefer holding off on those consolidations until next year because those precincts both have liquor options on the ballot, and consolidating them now would only confuse matters and make things more difficult.
There are four pollworkers in each precinct, and the consolidations are expected to save $500 per election in pollworker salaries alone. The move will save upwards of $14,000 a year after other expenses are figured in.
"The only thing it will affect is the pollworkers, who have to deal with the extra traffic," Booth said.
The consolidations will leave the county with 93 precincts that will serve about 800 voters each on average. State law allows up to 1,400 registered voters per precinct.
Booth said current Democrat and Republican party precinct committeemen are unaffected by the consolidation and will be able to serve out the the remainder of their four-year terms.
In other action, the board discussed how to comply with a new directive from Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner requiring elections boards to come up with a plan to ensure pollworkers are properly trained and their performance is reviewed. The directive is part of an agreement to settle a voting lawsuit brought against Ohio by the League of Women Voters.
"It's a way to to bring our pollworkers to a higher level of competency," said Ann Block, regional liaison for Brunner, who attended the meeting. "It's to improve the election process."
Booth said they already maintain their own checklist of things pollworkers must know and are taught during training sessions, but Booth said they want it turned into a formal policy covering issues outlined in the directive.
Finally, the board granted 1 percent pay raises to Booth and Kim Meek, deputy director.
"We feel that the way the economy is, 1 percent is good for now," said board President Patty Colian.
Board member Larry Bowersock said Booth and Meek have saved them at least $23,000 this year by coming up with the precinct consolidation plan and assuming responsibility for some of the tech support they previously hired a company to perform.