Board of Registrars available to answer election-related questions
by Aziza Jackson
TALLADEGA COUNTY — With Friday being the last day to register to vote, the Board of Registrars has been busy in Talladega and Sylacauga answering questions about redistricting, the location of polling sites, and qualifications for voting absentee ballots.

“There is a great level of interest in this election,” Talladega County registrar Judy McSween said.

McSween, one of four members of the county’s Board of Registrars, said there was an increase in voter registration for the general election four years ago.

A total of 49,836 voters were reportedly registered in March 2012.

As of noon Tuesday, that number had jumped to 52,046, an increase of 2,210 registered voters in Talladega County.

“There’s more participation in this election than in any I’ve seen,” McSween said. “It’s a busy time for all of us.”

The 2010 U.S. Census reported changes in population in areas of Talladega County.

The shift in population brought about changes in voter representation by county commissioners.

The new districts will be implemented on the ballots in the Nov. 6 general election.

McSween said that due to a large population growth in the Lincoln and Oxford areas, according to the census, new lines had to be drawn for the commission’s five districts to ensure the commissioners had equal amounts of the population in their districts.

“It meant the areas the commissioners represented would be equal so they would represent approximately the same amount of people,” McSween said.

Incumbent District 1 Commissioner Jackie Swinford is running against Robert O. Punkin Ford, incumbent District 3 Commissioner Kelvin Cunningham is running unopposed, and incumbent District 5 Commissioner John F. Carter is running against Greg Atkinson.

“Redistricting is not affecting where he or she votes, but it is going to affect who’s on their ballot,” McSween said.

“For example, if I’ve had (District 1 Commissioner) Jackie Swinford on my ballot these last four years, he might not be on my ballot this time.”

McSween said voter identification cards have been mailed to all residents in the county who will be affected by the redistricting, so they will be aware ahead of time that the names on their ballots will be different this year.

Two registrar offices are located in the basement of the Talladega County Courthouse, and there are two in the Courthouse Annex in Sylacauga.

Registrars in the Talladega County Courthouse can be reached at 256-761-2131 and 256-761-2131; registrars in the Sylacauga courthouse can be reached at 256-249-1007 and 256-249-1014.

Friday is the last day to register to vote. Offices close at 5 p.m.

“Registrars do not handle absentee ballots, the circuit clerk’s office does,” Circuit Clerk Clarence Haynes said. “You can pick up an application at the circuit clerk’s office in Talladega or Sylacauga or you can print one out at the Secretary of State’s website.”

The circuit clerk’s office in Talladega can be reached at 256-761-2104.

Those eligible to fill out an absentee ballot are limited to: those who will be out of the county or the state on election day; those who have a physical illness or infirmity that prevents attendance at the polls; those who work a shift that has at least 10 hours that coincide with the polling hours at their regular polling place; those who are enrolled as a student at an educational institution outside the county of their personal residence, making them incapable of going to the polling site designated for that personal residence; those who are members, spouses or dependents of a member of the Armed Forces of the United States or are otherwise similarly qualified to vote absentee pursuant to the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act; or those who have been appointed as an election officer at a polling place that is not their regular polling place.

The deadline for absentee voting is Nov. 1.

“The law says five days before the election,” Haynes said.

He said all absentee ballots must be mailed to “Circuit Clerk, P.O. Box 6137, Talladega AL, 35161.”

Haynes must receive them in that P.O. Box by 5 p.m. on Nov. 1.

He said that so far a large portion of the absentee ballots he has received have come from those serving in the military.

“I don’t think there’s a problem that could come up that our Board of Registrars can’t handle,” Haynes said.

McSween and Haynes said the probate office, Board of Registers, circuit clerk’s office, and Talladega County Sheriff’s Department have all worked together to make sure area residents stay informed, and that election day goes as smoothly as possible.

“The Sheriff’s Department keeps the ballots and are responsible for them once they come in from the polling site,” McSween said. “They are responsible for the security of the election materials.”

The National Guard Armory polling site in Talladega has been moved to the Brecon Recreation Center, located at 1001 Horne Drive, for the general election.

Polling sites will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 6.

“I think the county goes above and beyond to make sure people can vote,” McSween said.

“All of us work to give access to the voter. It’s their right and privilege to vote.”

Contact Aziza Jackson at ajackson@dailyhome.com.

© 2012