Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
Absentee voting has already begun and early voting starts next week for the municipal elections for both Franklin and Highlands. One significant change to this year’s voting process is the location for one-stop, early voting.
Traditionally, early voting has been held at the Macon County Courthouse leading up to Election Day, however, due to upcoming security renovations to the courthouse, Macon County Board of Elections Director Melanie Thibault said the decision was made to move early voting to the Robert C. Carpenter Community Building located on the Georgia Road.
“It was changed due to the security measures that the courthouse is currently working to put into place,” said Thibault of the location change. “Eventually there will be security scanners installed that all who enter the Courthouse will be required to clear before entering the Courthouse. The State Board of Elections has informed us that this will be placing a requirement on the voter that we cannot do.”
In addition to the security changes, Thibault said the move consideration was made to streamline early voting and make it easier for residents. “Also with the BOE office being located in the basement of the courthouse, it makes it harder for the voters to get to us during the bigger elections,” said Thibault. “Court is usually at full capacity when in session which ties the elevator up most of the day. The parking is also an issue here at the courthouse. On the days that court is in session the parking lot is at full capacity.”
The Macon County Board of Elections has been working with Recreation Director Seth Adams and County Manager Derek Roland to secure a space at the community building for early voting.
“They have both been working with us along with our maintenance department to ready the room that we will be using for One-Stop,” said Thibault.
Thibault believes that the additional parking at the community building, as well as the building being one level will provide for easier access for voters to enter the facility.
“It also has more handicap accessible parking spaces,” said Thibault. “Those who need curbside assistance with their ballots, right now they have to pull up to the back of the courthouse and enter through the gate, on court days you have the jail buses trying to enter and exit and if someone is trying to enter for a curbside it makes it hard for either of them to enter and exit. [At the community building] there are no elevators to wait on and no stairs to go up and down.”
With road construction along the Georgia Road ramping up, Thibault said that traffic was something they considered, but believes the positives outweigh the negative.
“The traffic of course is an issue for anyone traveling on the Georgia Road at this time,” Thibault. “But I think voters who want to make their voices heard in the upcoming and future elections will come out and cast their vote regardless of where the elections are held.”
To notify voters, the Board of Elections mailed out a notification to all voters who live inside the city limits of both Franklin and Highlands to notify them of this change. Countywide notifications will be sent by Dec. 1.
While the Franklin early voting location is moving, the early voting location in Highlands at the Highlands Civic Center will remain the same. Franklin residents can vote early at the Highlands location and will be given a ballot for the municipal election. Highlands residents can also vote early at the Franklin location and will be given a ballot for the Highlands Municipal election.
Absentee voting by mail started on Oct. 6 and ends Oct. 29. The deadline for voter registration and any party changes deadline is Oct. 11.
The early voting site is now at the Robert C. Carpenter Community Building at 1288 Georgia Rd.
The one stop early voting dates run from Wednesday, Oct. 16, to Friday, Nov. 1, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday; no Saturday voting.
Election Day is Nov. 5 and the polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.