The Henry County Election Commission put off voting on a plan to consolidate voting districts and establishing voting centers, choosing instead to allow people time to learn more about it and voice their opinions.

The commission voted unanimously to postpone voting on the measure during a called meeting Monday at the Election Commission office.

Instead, the group will host a forum to allow the public a chance to ask questions about the consolidation, and give their opinions. A date and location had not been set as of press time, but one possibility discussed during the meeting was prior to the board’s regularly scheduled meeting date in June.

The plan would entail consolidating the county’s 13 existing precincts into six prior to the 2022 election. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Districts vote at Harrelson, Henry, Lakewood and Grove schools, respectively, while Henry County High School and the Tennessee Technology Center would take voters from the 5th District.

In 2024, those precincts would become voting centers, allowing voters to cast ballots at whatever voting center is closest to them.

DeLaina Green, county administrator of elections, presented the plan to the Henry County Board of Education at its Thursday meeting. The board unanimously voted to allow the Election Commission to allow the use of its schools as voting centers at no cost.

On Monday, Green said even if the commission opted not to go ahead with consolidation, there were several areas currently serving as precincts that would not be available in 2022.

Furthermore, in order to serve as a voting center, state law requires a hardwired internet connection, which is a rarity for many locations outside city limits. Green said she was also trying to move away from paying rental fees, which are not required for use of the county schools.  

During Monday’s discussion of the consolidation by the Election Commission, opinions about going forward were divided along party lines, with Republican members Steve Goggans, Art Smith and Randy Geiger in favor, and Democratic members Bennie Akers and Sylvia Humphreys opposing it.

Both Akers and Humphreys said they had heard numerous complaints from those they represented, with Akers saying the idea of consolidation was drawing considerable backlash.

Both said a public forum would give people time to learn more about the idea.

“It will give time to get people familiar with it, and not feel like they’re being rushed into it,” Akers said.

Once it is announced, a date and time for the forum will be published in The Post-Intelligencer.

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