Thursday, May 19, 2011

Colbert County Citizens Excluded from School Tax Vote

Colbert County Citizens Excluded from School Tax Vote

A Guest Commentary By

Thomas Beane

On April 19, 2011, voters in Colbert County went to the polls on the issue of the renewal of a 5-mill property tax that is earmarked for the Colbert County School System. The property tax vote occurs once every ten years and is only for Colbert County residents who do not live in Tuscumbia, Sheffield, or Muscle Shoals city limits. However, there was a problem in the election process on that day. Some Colbert County residents and property owners were excluded from being able to cast their vote including myself.

Some residents live in the county bordering city jurisdictions. The polling place for some of these residents is in locations within the adjacent city limits. For example, I live South of Tuscumbia in the county, but we vote at R.E. Thompson School or at a nearby church, as was the case in the 2008 elections. When we arrived to cast our vote supporting the school tax, the polling place was closed. All attempts to find a location to cast our vote failed. My family and I returned home, unhappy with being deprived of our voting rights.

I contacted Sen. Roger Bedford through email to ask who would be the best person to discuss the issue. He advised me to contact our mayor. I am sure that Sen. Bedford thought that I lived within the city since my address is Tuscumbia. Being a county resident, we don’t have a mayor. I decided to contact Tuscumbia’s mayor. I was unable to talk with him. I called and talked to authorities at the Colbert County Courthouse and explained the situation. The only response that I got was “that don’t seem right.”

With the catastrophic events in Alabama, the issue has probably been lost in the shuffle. The problem remains that some Colbert County voters did not get to participate in the election, so the Democratic process failed. Fortunately, the school tax passed, which provides Colbert County schools with much needed funding in these hard economic times. So the question remains - what happens the next time that there is a county-only vote? If county voters have to go to a city-polling place, then the city should not be able to decide whether we, as county residents, get to vote or not. There is a problem here that may seem small, but has very large implications.


Thanks to Thomas Beane for the above commentary. Since this election occurs only once every ten years, we can understand how there could be problems. We have two suggestions for those who have had issues or anticipate problems in similar elections:

1. Contact Sen. Bedford again, perhaps including a copy of this blog. We do not always agree with the good senator's politics, but we do believe he supports local schools and would endeavor to prevent a similar incident in the future.

2. In future elections, go to the nearest open polling place and cast a provisional ballot. It should be recorded in the final count.


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