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State abolishes on-site absentee voting

Features Editor

Probate judges across the state are breathing a sigh of relief.

Earlier this week, Alabama lawmakers voted to bring an end to on-site absentee voting.

"The concept of on-site voting is a good one," Pike County Probate Judge Bill Stone said. "Unfortunately, although a few people used it, it never did catch on."

In 1996, the Alabama Legislature passed a bill that set a Saturday before each election for voters, who plan to be out of the county on election day, to cast absentee ballots at a central location.

Stone said Pike County recorded as few as three voters and there was even a time nobody showed up at the on-site absentee poll. For the last election, "30 or so" took advantage of the chance to cast absentee ballots in person.

The purpose of having on-site absentee voting was twofold ­ to increase voter turnout and eliminate absentee voter fraud.

It was also expensive.

Considering the low turnout, it cost about $500 to man the polls. There had to be eight polling officials present, Stone said.

Plus another "several thousand (dollars)" for preparing the ballots ­ two different styles.

"If you look at it from a business standpoint, it wasn’t worth it," Stone said.

Across the state, the average cost for on-site absentee voting in a statewide election was about $400,000. It is estimated on-site voting for the 2002 election would cost the state about $1.2 million.

"I have mixed emotions about losing it," Stone said of abolishing the on-site voting. "I think the Legislature was wise to eliminate it."

State Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy, said abolishing the on-site absentee voting was not a difficult decision for legislators since it was pushed by the Association of County Commissions and probate judges.

"It was expensive and not worthwhile because the people weren’t taking advantage of it," Boothe said.