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Elections board ponders office space, budget
07.12 elections board
Temporary elections board chairman Ruth Lee discusses possible by-laws with Tommy Allen, Herb Jones and Homer Lee Wallace. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

Effingham County’s newly-constituted elections board met for the first time Tuesday morning and already has plenty of questions.

Board members will be asking county officials about a projected budget and a potential elections staff, not to mention a place to operate.

“We also need some kind of office space, as small as it may be,” temporary chairman Ruth Lee said at Tuesday’s inaugural meeting.

The Effingham Board of Education may not renew the contract for the space for  the registrar’s office.

“We will need room for that,” Lee said.

She also said an executive director may be needed to run the elections department.

“At the beginning, there will be a great deal of work for that person,” Lee said. “But we do need to be looking for that person.”

She also said a superintendent of elections and a registrar also need to be hired. Previously, many of the election functions had been carried out by the probate court.

“We need to ask the county to allow us to have those positions,” Lee said.

The estimated budget for an elections office is approximately $142,000. The probate court released about $61,000 from its line items for elections.

Four of the five members — Tommy Allen, Herb Jones, Lee and Homer Lee Wallace — were sworn in. The fifth member, Susie Davis, is still recuperating from an illness and could not be sworn.

They also came to an impasse over the board’s chairman. Wallace nominated Lee and Allen nominated Jones. Each received two votes, leaving the board at a deadlock.

“We apparently are at loggerheads,” Lee said.

Board members, however, agreed to let Lee continue to serve as a temporary chairman until they name a permanent one.

“The judge said time is of the essence and we need to start moving forward,” Wallace said.

Elections board members have scheduled a workshop Monday morning, followed by a regular meeting, to discuss possible by-laws. Jones dispensed by-laws from the elections boards of Barrow, Chatham and Richmond counties as possible guides.

“There really is no sense in us taking a public meeting like this until we have some action we are ready to approve,” Lee said.

Judy Suhor, chief clerk of the probate court and former assistant superintendent of elections, said Effingham members may want to observe how Richmond  County conducts its elections and visit its former director of elections Linda

Beazley and now chairman of Richmond County’s elections board.

“There is no one I know in the state who has more insight than Linda Beazley,” she said.

Also, elections board members must have 12 hours of training and go through modules conducted by Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems.

“Someone from the county has to be certified through those modules in order to run the 2008 elections,” Suhor said.