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School board election polling locations changed

Published: Friday, Sept. 6, 2013 12:02 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Sept. 6, 2013 12:03 p.m. CDT

With the school board election coming up on Tuesday, Newton Community School District residents should be aware there will be a change to their traditional precinct polling locations.

There will be three polling locations for the school board vote on Tuesday. The locations include:

• Jasper County Community Center, 2401 1st Ave. E.

• Newton Union Hall, 1813 1st St. N.

• Kellogg City Hall, 223 High St.

In the past, there have been nine polling locations for school elections, but due to low turnout, high expenses and school safety concerns, sites were reduced to three in an effort to resolve these issues.

“The Newton Community School District has had such low turnout in recent times, it has become extremely expensive to have all the polling places open and fully staffed,” Jasper County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections Dennis Parrott said.

This also gave the county an opportunity to move polling locations outside of the schools.

The county will be using vote centers for smaller elections, a state-wide trend. A vote center allows anyone in the district to vote at any one of the three locations.

“No matter where you live in the school district, you can go to one of those places, and they will have a ballot there for you,” Parrott said, “whereas in the past, you specifically had to go to one of nine places in your precinct and vote in that particular precinct.”

The county will be using a program called a Precinct Atlas. It’s an electronic database, designed to create a uniform polling system, that has a list of every registered voter in Jasper County.

As usual, registered voters tell a poll worker their information, and the poll worker will manually search for their name on the list. But with Precinct Atlas, voters have the additional option to use their driver’s license for an even more efficient voting process.

Voters can scan their license barcode, and it will automatically bring up the voter’s information.

This year, three candidates are on the ballot, and three individuals have started write-in campaigns. Four board positions open. The oval must be shaded in and names should be spelled accurately if voting for a write-in.

“Often times people don’t know how to spell someone’s name, or they’re not sure who is running,” Parrott said. “Write-in candidates will, a lot of the time, get fewer votes because people just don’t know.”

On election day, if a name is misspelled, it’s up to the poll workers discretion to count the vote or not, Parrott said.

“One of the negatives about doing a write-in campaign is that you’re probably not going to get all the votes you would have if you would have gotten your name on the ballot to begin with.”

Poll workers are paid volunteers who usually have previous experience working at the polls, are familiar with the community and are trained before each election.

In Jasper County, voter turnout in a school election is far smaller than a presidential election vote. In the presidential election of 2012, 73 percent, or nearly 20,000, of registered Jasper County voters voted. However, in the last three school elections, an average of 2.62 percent voted. In 2009, there were 14,990 register voters, and only 157 people participated in the election.

“These elections are usually fairly close because there are few people that turn out, so it really is important for people to get out there and vote.”

Schools, just like all of the governmental entities, have had different issues that are controversial.

“You need to vote because that’s your input in voting for the people you think will do the best job,” Parrott explained. “I encourage everyone to get out and vote.”

If an individual would like to register and vote on the same day, they must bring in a proof of identification and proof of residency. Polls are open from noon to 8 p.m. For additional information, contact the Jasper County Auditor’s Office at (641) 792-7016.

Staff writer Kate Malott may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 422, or at kmalott@newtondailynews.com.

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