Jefferson County Election Commission consolidates polling places for upcoming runoff election

By: Ray King

The Jefferson County Board of Election Commissioners voted Tuesday night to pay poll workers for the March 31 runoff elections a bonus on top of their regular pay.

During a special meeting, Commission Secretary Stu Soffer brought up the subject, saying that the extra money was a way of “saying thank you to the poll workers.”

While Soffer called the money “hazardous duty pay,” Commission Chairman Mike Adam called it “line of fire pay.”

Each poll worker will receive an extra $50 on top of their regular pay, $125 for poll workers, $140 for poll sheriff’s and $150 for poll judges.

“I think we all agree they’re underpaid for what they have to put up with,” Soffer said.

The primary purpose of the meeting was to approve the consolidation of polling sites for the District 13 Justice of the Peace race after the commission was notified that the Mayor of Sheriff refused permission to use the site there out of fear of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Previously, the commission was told they could not use the site they had used in past years in Tucker.

The commission voted to move voters who had previously voted in Sheriff to the Mt. Bayou Baptist Church at Altheimer. While that vote was unanimous, it came with reservations from Commissioner Ted Davis, who said he had a problem with using a polling place run by an elected official.

Commissioner Mike Adam spoke on the reason for the site location change.

Jefferson County Circuit Clerk Lafayette Woods Sr., is pastor of the church and Davis said that while Woods was not on the ballot this year, what would happen when he comes up for reelection.

Soffer responded by saying that Woods knew the rules (about candidates entering polling sites) and said he had checked and Woods’ name did not appear on any signs in front of the church.

The decision to move the voters at Sheriff and other locations across the river all to Altheimer was one that Jeff Edwards, who is challenging incumbent Justice of the Peace Brenda Bishop-Gaddy for the District 13 spot said he understood, but felt it gave him a disadvantage.

Edwards said Bishop-Gaddy lives in Altheimer and goes is a member of the church where voting will take place.

“The largest part of the voting population is in Altheimer,” Edwards said. “I don’t see this as a level playing field.”

After Edwards’ remarks, Soffer told him that if he didn’t prevail, he had 21 days to take action.