Trustees OK recommendation not to use schools as precincts

Published 11:02 pm Friday, September 1, 2017

Some Warren County voters may have a new voting precinct starting with the June 2018 primary election.

The Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees approved a recommendation Thursday that district schools no longer be used as voting precincts. The recommendation will be given to the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

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The change would affect voters who currently vote at Warren Central Junior High, Redwood Elementary and Sherman Avenue Elementary.

“When the presidential election arrived, the safety of the schools came in to play due to some traffic issues and we talked about the new gun laws changed everything too,” VWSD superintendent Chad Shealy said. “Now you can bring your gun to the polls. We have this federal law about not bringing guns on school campus, versus now it is conflicting. The ruling came out that even though it is on school campus they can bring a gun. We shut the schools down last year.”

The recommendation to change the precincts was a joint effort between the VWSD and the Warren County Election Commission, which originally presented the idea to the Board of Supervisors in April.

“In April, the entire Warren County election commission and circuit clerk went to a board of supervisor work session and made a presentation  proposing 15 different precinct changes. Not necessarily changing it totally, but modifications,” election commission chairman Sara Dionne said. “It included taking the precincts out of the schools because of safety and traffic issues.”

The commission then asked Shealy for his opinion on the matter and for him to talk to the board of supervisors.

“(Dionne) had gone to the board of supervisors and she asked would I talk,” Shealy said. “I told them our perspective and concerns. It is a rare opportunity for those things to happen and we always have supervision, but when you start inviting guaranteed people on campus with a voting precinct you run a risk. That risk was very concerning to us.”

Shealy told the supervisors he would bring the issue to the board of trustees at their next meeting and allow them to decide whether to make a formal recommendation that changes be made.

The recommendation passed by a 4 to 1 vote with trustee Jim Stirgus Jr. casting the lone dissenting vote. Stirgus said he voted against the recommendation not because he wasn’t in favor of the change, but due to the proposed timeline. He asked that the change not take place for several years in order for voters to prepare for the change.

“Any voter that is affected by a precinct change will be sent a postcard in the mail notifying them of their new precinct location,” Dionne said. “That would be sent out by the circuit court’s office.”

The recommendation will be presented to the Warren County Board of Supervisors, which has the authority to make the change.

“Once we get official notification we would begin to secure alternate locations in order to comply with their wishes if at all possible,” board of supervisors president Richard George said. “If they chose to be relieved of their responsibility as a precinct, that will be fine. We will make other arrangements.”

The proposed changes will not take place before the Nov. 7 special election for the District 54 representative seat vacated by Alex Monsour. Warren Central Junior High, Redwood Elementary and Sherman Avenue Elementary will be used as voting precincts for the special election.