Statesboro’s city clerk posted a notice in the Statesboro Herald last week for a proposed move of the Statesboro One city voting precinct to the Luetta Moore Park community building on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
Unless there are unforeseen obstacles or serious objections, City Council is expected to act during its 5:30 p.m. April 18 meeting to reassign this precinct, which previously voted in the William James Educational Complex, for the Nov. 7 city election and later city elections.
After last November’s county, state and federal election, Bulloch County Schools officials notified both the city and the county Board of Elections and Registration that the William James Complex on Williams Road would no longer be available as a voting site.
Other sites were considered, but the Luetta Moore Park building, which is officially the Jones-Love Cultural Center, operated by the Bulloch County Recreation and Parks Department, was the one favored by city officials.
“I looked at the proposed sites,” Mayor Jonathan McCollar said in early March. “The one that makes sense to me, if we’re going to move it, would be Luetta Moore Park. I think it’s more centralized, it’s got the parking … and then it’s still walkable for that district, so to me, that would be a major plus.”
During the March 21 meeting, the mayor and council directed City Clerk Leah Harden to publish the notice of the proposed change.
McCollar is in the middle of a term and not up for election this year. Only three City Council seats, those for District 2, currently held by Paulette Chavers; District 3; currently held by Venus Mack; and District 5, currently held by Shari Barr, are to be on the November ballot, for which the candidate qualifying period is Aug. 21-25.
Precinct numbers are not the same as council district numbers, and the city has only two precincts for its municipal elections. Statesboro Two precinct voters will still vote at Pittman Park United Methodist Church and are not affected by the pending decision.
Over 20 years
But the cafeteria of the William James Educational Complex, the old school at 150 Williams Road, has also served as a Bulloch County, state and federal voting precinct, called simply the “Statesboro” precinct, for more than 20 years. In recent years it had been one of 16 election-day voting places in county elections.
So the Bulloch County Board of Elections and Registration is expected to make a separate decision on relocating that precinct. The building at Luetta Moore Park is also the expected new location for the county, state and federal precinct, but the Elections Board will act after the city, said Bulloch County Election Supervisor Shontay Jones.
“We haven’t done anything yet on the county level,” Jones said Monday. “The City Council has to do their own approving of relocating the precinct just because they are the governing authority of the city.”
The county elections office, she noted, is only contracted by the city to conduct municipal elections on Statesboro’s behalf.
With a new Election Board member’s appointment taking effect April 1, she and the board did not take up the decision at their March meeting. But they will probably do so during the 1:30 p.m. April 10 board meeting across the hall from the elections office in the County Annex on North Main Street.
“What we’ll likely do April 10 in the board meeting is adopt a resolution to run the notice if the board members are in agreement with the relocation,” Jones said. “The (state law) code section just says that notice must run once for two weeks, and if there’s no objections to the relocation, the next step is the boards would then adopt a resolution permanently relocating.”
Although the Jones-Love Center’s interior is smaller than the old William James lunchroom, it is large enough to set up all the equipment for the precinct’s elections given current rates of Election Day in-person voting, she said.
Reason for move
Beginning in October 2021, Bulloch County Schools staff members expressed concerns to the Board of Elections and staff about the continued use of the William James Educational Complex for elections. The school district cooperated with the elections officials to continue to host elections through 2022, but informed them after the November election that the gym would not be available as a voting site in future years.
In addition to the Board of Education central offices, the William James Complex houses the Transitions Learning Center alternative program for sixth through 12th grades and two other educational programs.
Together over the course of extended weekdays, these currently serve more than 250 students ranging in age from 3 to 18, Greene said.
“Due to the nationwide focus on school safety and the school district's increased safety protocols, it's no longer feasible for an active school building with children to be a voting precinct,” she wrote in February.