Sample ballot issue raises questions
Questions have been raised about the cost of a precinct rental and the decision to put the sample ballot in the Fannin County, GA newspaper rather than the Polk County newspaper.
Questions have been raised about the cost of a precinct rental and the decision to put the sample ballot in the Fannin County newspaper rather than the Polk County newspaper. The discussion at the March 15 county commission meeting came after Sheena Gaddis asked to suspend the rules in order to approve two invoices for which the Election Office had not obtained purchase orders -- $125 for rental of the Tri-State Trail and Tree building in Turtletown and $580.50 for the News-Observer for the sample ballot.
Gaddis asked when a purchase order is required, noting her father, Election Administrator Steve Gaddis, had done things without getting a purchase order. County Executive Hoyt Firestone said it is needed for any non-recurring items. Steve Gaddis said it is not practical when he has so many, such as the election workers. Firestone said they come under contract workers. The building owner, he said, is a vendor and needs a purchase order even though the building will be used three times. Gaddis said he needs to be more clear on what’s non-recurring, saying he was not aware of all the procedures. Sheena Gaddis asked if they need to go back and do purchase orders for others and Firestone said they can’t go back and fix an error.
Steve Gaddis said he just wants to do it right in the future. John Pippenger explained that the County Clerk always gets a purchase order before doing a publication for the Beer Board. Gaddis said his problem is lack of knowledge. Sheena Gaddis made the motion to pay the two bills.
Pippenger asked about the $125 cost for the Turtletown precinct and wondered about the other precincts. Gaddis said he thought most of others are county buildings. Firestone said the fire halls in Delano, Springtown and Greasy Creek are not owned by the county. Gaddis said he was not aware of any other invoices. Pippenger said the payment has been $25 and asked, “why is it so much up there?” Gaddis said he can’t imagine any outfit wanting to rent their building for 14 hours for $25. He added he approached it from the standpoint of how much he was saving by moving the precinct across the road, noting it would cost $400-$500 to turn the power off and one three times for the old bank building. Sheena Gaddis asked if they need to put the other buildings on the agenda for the next month. Firestone said they generally send an invoice and there is enough in the budget.
The vote to pay the two bills was approved 5-0-3. Voting in favor were Randy Collins, Gaddis, Pippenger, Daren Waters and James Woody. Passing were Isaac Bramblett, Mike Curbow and Buster Lewis. Pippenger asked County Executive Hoyt Firestone if they had to pay for the publication and Firestone said they are legitimate debts.
Pippenger said he has an issue with the notice in the News-Observer, noting he received multiple calls about the fact the election administrator published it just in the News-Observer. He noted it ran in the Polk County News because individuals decided to foot the bill. Pippenger said there is an Attorney General’s opinion on what constitutes a “newspaper of general circulation.” He said he also learned the Election Commission is supposed to decide where to put the sample ballot notice, which was not done this time. He said that could take some of the slack off the county commission.
Sheena Gaddis said she just looked at the numbers, noting there was a publication on both ends of the county. “We’re taking heat because most of the population is on this end,” she said, adding it wouldn’t be right to run the publication on just one side of the county. She said she wanted to get the information to the most voters. Isaac Bramblett said the Polk County News is available on both sides of the county but the notice was run in a paper that’s not available on the west side. Gaddis said it ran in both papers. Steve Gaddis said it can be run in as many newspapers as needed to give effective notice. Pippenger asked Bramblett to read the portion of state law regarding election notices into the minutes. It calls for publishing “in a newspaper of general circulation in the county or municipality in which the election is to be held …”
Sheena Gaddis said it’s about making the voters aware, adding it should be run in both papers. Bramblett asked if there have been complaints in previous elections. Gaddis said she had calls from people wanting to know where the precincts were even though it ran in both papers. Ingrid Buehler, Polk County News editor, said the precincts did not appear in the sample ballot notice in the News-Observer. Steve Gaddis said the same thing ran in the News-Observer and Polk County News. Pippenger said the only notice with precincts was the Polk County News. Sheena Gaddis said that was an error on her part, saying she took the Polk County News’ earlier notice to the Observer and told them to eliminate the portion about early voting. Buehler explained that the first notice just has the sample ballot and early voting information. The second time the sample ballot runs, right before election day, is when the precincts and times are to be published.
Sheena Gaddis said she thinks everything should be run on both sides because there are people on the East side who do not read the Polk County News. Bramblett quipped that they might need to run in the Cleveland Daily Banner and McMinn County newspaper to reach other people who might not read the local paper. Steve Gaddis said he would be looking at the Cleveland Banner.
Sheena Gaddis said she wants everybody to get the information even if it means running in the Blue Ridge and Polk County papers. Pippenger said there are nine locations where residents on the East side can purchase the Polk County News, but there are zero locations in West Polk where residents can purchase the News-Observer. Steve Gaddis said it’s not about who’s got the most numbers. “I want everybody to get it. I don’t want to disenfranchise two voters above the mountains.” He said the Observer is available in the mail and on newsstands up there and covers things the Polk County News doesn’t cover.
James Woody said the Polk County News covers both sides of the county, noting he had heard complaints from West Polk about the amount of East Polk news.
Sheena Gaddis said her bottom line was looking at the numbers. Bramblett asked who made the decision to run in the News-Observer, adding she kept referring to things she did. She said her father made the decision, adding, “I took the heat off this too and he’s my father. I thought, ‘let’s look at the numbers and what gets out to the voters.’ ”
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