HomeNewsElection Commission needs space, security; pending move of JMCSS leadership discussed

Election Commission needs space, security; pending move of JMCSS leadership discussed

Madison County Election Administrator Lori Lott had a dire warning for the budget committee of the county commission on Wednesday.

“We need more space at a central location, or we’re going to end up on the news,” Lott said. “It’s not a matter of it, but when.”

Voting machines are stored at different places throughout the county, and there are state and federal standards for how they’re to be stored. Those standards aren’t being met.

“This isn’t something she wants to do,” said Commission Chairman Gary Deaton, who’s a member of the committee. “It’s something the state is requiring us to do.”

Voting machines are stored in different places in the county including on the premises where the election commission currently is on North Parkway as well as the county finance complex on Hollywood Drive.

More locations are cause for concern for safety of the machines, and Lott is concerned with the integrity of elections in the county being questioned.

In addition to that, the election commission is currently on the Madison County Agricultural Complex, and they use their auditorium for early voting. Lott noted that parking and space is an issue at that location because it can get crowded quickly.

“Every election is an event, and it’s a large event that takes planning,” Lott said. “And it’s hard to plan anything with everything so scattered and so many pieces of the plan being in different places.

“And there’s already a lot of attention on elections right now, and I’m trying to avoid a situation where our elections could be questioned when we’re trying to ensure their integrity and efficiency without any problems.”

According to discussion among Deaton and Mayor A.J. Massey, who’s also on the budget committee, there is a plan in place that would potentially alleviate the issues Lott is dealing with by giving her more space for storage in a central location. But they’re waiting for that place to open up.

“The school system has been planning to move out of their central office for over a year and still haven’t done it,” Deaton said. “And there’s plenty of space for Lori there.

“But [Jackson-Madison County Schools Superintendent Marlon King] said they’d be out of there a year ago and they’re not out yet.”

Massey, who said he’s discussed the issue with King, said JMCSS’ plans to move to its new location in Hub City Central in the building that once housed Madison Academic and Jackson High School before that have been delayed.

“The old Madison building needs a new roof before they can move into that building, and some issues have come up in the district with a school needing a new roof and another school needing work on its parking lot,” Massey said. “To the point that Dr. King had to choose between putting a new roof on Madison or fixing issues at schools, and he chose schools.”

Massey added that the current central office location on North Parkway, which is across the road from the election commission offices, is the school system’s, and they’re under no obligation to give it to the county when they vacate the building.

“And we’re having conversations of what do they need to move their offices and open up that space,” Massey said before confirming for Deaton that he wasn’t negotiating with King but instead simply getting information from King before the Commission itself began discussing the issue. “But if it’s an option, the County helping put a new roof on the old Madison building to facilitate the district offices moving would be a lot less expensive than the County buying land and building a new building for the Election Commission.”

Massey said the issue is one of the topics on the agenda for the long-range planning committee meeting planned for Feb. 16.Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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