New GIS software makes mapping voters easier

Published 2:45 pm Tuesday, October 24, 2023

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Secretary of State Wes Allen announced last week that his office will provide Geographical Information System (GIS) services for the purpose of districting voters and administering elections in all 67 Alabama counties.

Covington County Probate Judge Stacy Brooks

Voters register with the county’s Board of Registrars and are mapped in the county’s precincts based on their address.

“Alabama law states you must vote in the precinct where you live. The GIS software will make it easier to map where voters live and make sure we have them voting in the correct precinct,” Probate Judge Stacy Brooks said.

There are currently 25 voting precincts throughout the county. Currently, paper maps are utilized by the Board of Registrars to ensure that voters are voting in the correct precinct.

“Our Board of Registrars looks at a map with the precincts drawn off. For example, if Mr. Smith’s address is located on the map in the Opp precinct, then he will cast his vote in the Opp precinct. The GIS system, which is computerized, will make it easier for the Registrars to determine which precinct a voter should be placed in. When the Registrars enter the voter’s address, it will place the voter in the correct precinct. If you live in the Gantt area, you vote in Gantt. If you live in Red Level, you vote in Red Level.”

Brooks added that the vendor tasked with providing Alabama counties with the GIS software plans to visit the county next week.

“They will be coming to make sure we have it set up here in Covington County and that everything is mapped correctly. Those overseeing the GIS software will make sure it is installed on our Board of Registrars’ computers and will train the registrars on how to use it. Another example is with school board elections. The county school board is elected by people who reside in the county, not by people living in the Andalusia and Opp municipalities. It must be mapped correctly because some people vote at the Kiwanis center but live in the county. They do not live in the city limits with the way the precincts are drawn, but when they go to vote, they must get a ballot without the county school board on it.”

Brooks is excited about using the GIS software and feels it will be good for Covington County.

“This software will be very helpful for us. It’s a step forward and a good thing for our county. By having better information that is more easily accessible, we can avoid people voting where they are not supposed to vote. I’m proud to say that in Covington County, our elections have always been open, honest, and accurate. When you are just looking at older paper maps, it’s hard to pinpoint. The information we have has worked, but this is better information. Barring unforeseen circumstances, it should be up and running for our primaries next March and the general election next November,” she said.

Funding for the purchase of the GIS services came from federal funds allocated to the Secretary of State.

“Utilizing GIS for voter district assignment and precinct assignment is highly accurate when compared to paper mapping and drawing. We are proud to utilize these funds to assist our local election officials on whom the security and accuracy of our elections depend,” Secretary Allen said.

There are currently 16 counties in Alabama that utilize GIS services. Secretary Allen’s office began covering service fees Oct. 1, and will continue to do so through July 31, 2025. GIS software became available to the remaining 51 counties who were not using it on August 9.

“It’s a win for Alabama that we can extend GIS services for voter districting and election management to new counties in Alabama and ease the financial burden for counties that already have them,” Allen added.

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