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Commission getting ready for busy year at the polls

By SERINA MARSHALL
Staff Writer
[email protected]

The Washington County Election Commission didn’t get its census numbers until late September, leaving them only seven weeks to do what usually takes six months. But they were up to the challenge.

According to Dana Jones, certified administrator of elections, a multitude of tasks can be involved preparing for an election, which she and her team tackle in the months leading up to the event.

“We had re-districting this year, where the county commission cuts the lines for the districts, and then they send them up to the election office and we put in precincts,” she said. “Usually, you get your census numbers about February of the starting year.”

According to Jones, this year the county commission didn’t get the census numbers until the end of September. It usually takes six months to do re-districting, so this could have been a challenge for the election commission.

“Washington County should be very impressed with their election office staff. They did re-districting for our entire county, not once, but twice, in under seven weeks. Six months to seven weeks. That’s how outstanding the staff is,” she said.

The committee also sends out postcards to every registered voter in Washington County telling them exactly where they go to vote and which office they are falling in, Jones added.

“All that will be on the postcard they get in the mail. If you do want a new voter card, you need to come to early voting sites (Wednesday, April 13 – Thursday, April 28, 2022), and then we will have a site satellite election office in every single early voting site and we will print you off a new card there,” Jones said. “Or you can come to our office in the Washington County Courthouse on Main Street.”

Jones added that the staff also takes a look at their voting sites to make sure the locations are easy to get in and out of, have ample parking and have enough room so voters don’t feel cramped.

For early voting, Washington County will have the Heritage Center in Jonesborough and Freedom Hall, providing 10 voting booths, as well as ETSU in Johnson City, said Jones. And each voting site will be set up the same for each election, so it is familiar to the voters.

“What better way to bring a friend and young people out to vote? We are on your campus; you have no excuses now. Walk up to the Culp
Center, have lunch, and exercise your freedom to vote,” she said. “We want to drive voting numbers up, so you do that by placing voting sites in places they would want to go, such as schools and churches. With so many schools being ADA compliant and have ample parking, what better way to have people feel like they are going home to vote? If you’re a parent or your child graduated from that school, you know where that school is. Then Crossroads Christian Church in Gray, for instance, stepped up when Gray Fire Station let us know they had construction in front of it this year, and it was one of our strongest sites.”

Jones wants to fill the sites with residents of the community — such as students helping out at their school’s election site or teachers and church members running polls — so there is that level of connection and familiarity for voters.

“By filling the voting sites with friendly faces, this will also help to bond the community,” she explained.

In order to get the word out frequently and accurately for the election, Jones said they make sure that their website and information is up to date. Jones and her team try to keep up with which candidate is doing what, as well as any changes that may be occurring within a candidate’s campaign.

Ashleigh Clark, a deputy for the elections commission, takes the reins for most of the computer updates. And, according to election officials, whatever you need to know or find is right there at your fingertips.

“We want to pull back the curtain and show that we have nothing to hide,” Jones continued. “We make everything that we can public for the
community.”

Jones said that races having votes for mayor and sheriff on a ballot, such as in this election, can mean a larger turnout.

In the Washington County Mayor’s race, Joe Grandy, Robbie Tester and James Reeves are listed as candidates. On the sheriff’s ballot,
Michael Templeton, Keith Sexton and Leighta Laitinen are running.

“These are the ones people will be watching,” she said. “It should be a very interesting race. We need people to get out and vote.”

For more information on details concerning the upcoming election, please visit http://wcecoffi ce.com/.