Commissioners cover elections and road management

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THOMPSON FALLS - Sanders County Commissioners met on Tuesday with Forest Service representatives and members of the Sanders County Elections Office to discuss a variety of issues concerning the community. Commissioners Tony Cox, Carol Brooker and Glen Magera convened for about two hours regarding road management responsibilities and the redistricting of Sanders County voting precincts.

Forest Service officials, Randy Hojem and Nate Kegel, met with commissioners about the division of responsibility for maintenance of roads near Forest Service land. The annual meeting was primarily a review to insure all parties understood which roads were under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service and which ones were to be handled by the county. The agreement, referred to as Schedule A, outlines the boundaries of road management dating back to 1968.

The next issue on the agenda was the redistricting of voting precincts within Sanders County. Jennine Robbins, clerk/recorder, and Bobbi Christenson, elections administrative assistant, met with the commissioners in order to clarify the impact on Sanders County voters. They provided maps to illustrate where the boundaries will be altered and how it would affect voters.

Christenson said the impact should not be too disruptive. Because many voters send in their ballot through the mail, the changes to polling locations will only affect a small percentage of the population. According to Robbins, about 60 percent of voters in the county chose to use a mail-in ballot during the last election. The other potential impact is that people living in certain areas may find their representative does not necessarily reside in their county. Due to the way the precinct boundaries cross county lines, it is possible that a resident of Mineral County could represent residents of southeast Sanders County.

“The other side of that is someone from Sanders County could throw their hat in the ring and end up representing members of Mineral County,” said Christenson.

According to Christenson, the changes are due to shifting population levels. Every ten years the state of Montana reexamines the boundaries, the population within the precincts and makes adjustments accordingly. The changes are made according to state guidelines and US Census statistics.

In conjunction with the changes in precinct boundaries, Christenson and Robbins have proposed consolidating the number of precincts within the county. The measure is primarily being considered as a cost saving measure. The proposal would decrease the number of precincts from ten down to six.

“The proposal will save money because we won’t need as many election judges. We are going to have to replace the electronic voting machines soon. If we have to maintain fewer machines, fewer machines means fewer dollars spent,” said Christenson.

If passed by the county commissioners, the measure would take immediate effect but would not prove relevant until the next primary election in June 2014.

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