A good move

Published 9:37 am Saturday, March 1, 2008

By Staff
A visit to the Beaufort County Board of Elections’ “new” headquarters this week proved to be an eye-opener.
Every voter in Beaufort County should take pride in the board’s new location and what elections officials will be able to accomplish there. The move will result in better service to voters, something Kellie Harris Hopkins, the county’s elections director, predicted would happen. She made her prediction before the Board of Elections moved from its former location on North Market Street in downtown Washington to its suite in the Beaufort County office complex housed in the former Tideland Mental Health Services building at the corner of Highland Drive and Cowell Farm Road.
The county’s decision to move the Board of Elections to its current and spacious location should be commended. Just the increase in space, about four times the size of the board’s former location, will serve voters well. There’s plenty of room for voters who want to take advantage of one-stop voting. There’s plenty of room for interested voters to use as a waiting area as results from the county’s 21 precincts come in after the polls close.
County Manager Paul Spruill said the move was made so the board could better accommodate one-stop voters, the number of which has increased since one-stop voting was initiated in November 2000. Making it easier for voters to cast ballots should result in more people exercising their right to vote. Getting more people to vote is a good thing.
The new location also makes it easier for the board, Hopkins and the remainder of the elections staff — Anita Branch and Elly Draper — to better serve voters. The move allowed the board to store all of its voting machines and related equipment at one location. In the past, voting machines and other equipment were stored in a secured location away from the board’s office. Having the machines just down a hallway means better security because the elections staff can keep watch over them.
The board’s new location has enough room so poll workers won’t be confined in close quarters if they attend training sessions at the new offices. The three-member Board of Elections, Hopkins and her staff have another reason to appreciate their new location. It’s got a large kitchen. That means that during elections, they don’t have to leave their office to eat somewhere else or go pick up food to bring back to the office. The kitchen allows them to stay at the office and serve voters. And during elections, there are plenty of voters, poll workers and others who need help. The more time elections staffers can spend helping those people, the better they are served.
Although there was no question the board, its director and other staff members exhibited professionalism at their former location, the current site’s appearance and layout lends an even more professional tone to the elections office.
Most voters who have not yet visited the new elections office likely will be more than pleasantly surprised when they do show up to take care of voting-related business. The county, its taxpayers and its voters should take pride in that new office.
If moving the elections office from downtown to its new location near Beaufort County Hospital caused any inconvenience to the public, that inconvenience should be offset by the improved service the elections office will be able to provide the public because of its move to better facilities.
It’s a good move in more ways than one.