A public hearing on consolidating two voting precincts was held by the Board of Supervisors, but members delayed deciding on the issue because of a lack of input from citizens.  

The board was looking to combine two precincts, one located in District 1 and the other in District 5. 

The District 1 precinct is located on Highway 19 near the Choctaw Indian Reservation at Tucker and the one in District 5 is located on Highway 19 at the nearby Tucker Volunteer Fire Department less than a mile away. 

“Basically, (the two precincts) are within hollering distance from each other,” District One Supervisor Keith Lillis said. 

Lillis and District 5 Supervisor Obbie Riley said they had not heard any comments, positive or negative, from their constituents about the combining the precincts and delaying the vote would give them more time to hear from them.

Allen White, president of the Board of Supervisors, said he also wanted to extend the timeline for making a decision on the consolidation because of the voting machines they would have to order. 

“We’re looking at ordering our machines and we’re sending it out for bids,” White said. “So, in the next few weeks, we’ll be making that final decision probably based on what the district supervisors come back with as a board.”

At the same time of deliberating the precinct consolidation, the county is also changing its voting system and having to purchase new voting machines. 

The board previously settled on a precinct scanner at their last meeting in December where voters mark paper ballots and then run them through a scanner. The cost of the new system is expected to be between $270,000 and $290,000.

Heather Kennedy, chairman of the county Election Commission, said the decision to switch to a paper ballot was because of the lack of a paper trail the county has with its current machines. 

“A lot of people are wanting to go back to having a better paper trail,” she said.

Kennedy said she thought the consolidation would be “a great idea” because there are, at most, 20 people who are voting at one of the precincts. 

“You’ll be saving probably between $20,000 to $30,000,” she said. 

She said if the precincts are consolidated, that would be one less voting machine to purchase. 

“Right now, the voting machines we have were bought in 2005,” Kennedy said. “They’re being held together by duct tape and prayer right now. They are completely wore out.”

There are currently 27 voting precinct locations in Neshoba County, and if the two precincts are combined, there would be 26. Each precinct location would  have a scanner along with a machine to help those with disabilities. The supervisors also said at their latest meeting they would purchase or rent an extra scanner to be used as a backup.

Circuit Clerk Patti Duncan Lee and the county election commissioners met with supervisors during Tuesday’s meeting. With the county’s general election coming up this summer, commissioners are concerned about having time get the new equipment in and to train poll workers.

Duncan Lee said she thought the decision to consolidate the precincts would be good financially and show “good financial stewardship.” 

The earliest they could purchase the new equipment and put in a purchase order would be during their first meeting in February.