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PALL MALL (WATE) - Some Fentress County residents recently received new voter registration cards that show their precinct has changed, but they don't like it.
Nearly two dozen people who live in Pall Mall, a mountain community that was home to Sgt. Alvin York, have been affected by the switch.
As communities celebrate the Fourth of July, many throw a big party. But in Pall Mall, residents are disappointed with some county officials over an important American right, voting.
"Half of the people on my road have been affected and will no longer be allowed to vote in Pall Mall where they live," Debbie Cook said. She doesn't understand why voting precincts in her small community have changed.
Pine Haven Elementary, on the edge of Jamestown, will be the new polling place for Earline Stewart, a long time Pall Mall.
For more than 40 years, Earline voted at the volunteer fire department. That will change for the state primary in August.'
Earline lives near Delk Creek Road, a five-mile long dead end road that's the center of the controversy.
"Well I'm going to have to go all the way to Jamestown to Pine Haven School if I vote," Earline said.
It's 20 miles to Pine Haven instead of about five miles in Pall Mall.
Earline learned of the change a few weeks ago when she received a notice of the precinct switch from the Fentress County Election Commission. She says no one has explained why they were switched.
"We just got a little card through the mail telling us we'd be voting at Pine Haven Elementary," Earline said. When she saw that, she thought "They've made a mistake."
At the election commission office, Administrator Joey Williams showed 6 On Your Side the new 2010 census map for Fentress County. He says when the county commission redrew the district election lines, his five-member election commission restructured the precincts lines based on population.
Williams says he's forced to follow rules established by the state's office of local government. "These are census blocks. They cannot be split," he said.
County Executive Frank Smith says the commission had nothing to do with changing the precinct voting places.
"I think it's wrong because those people who all live on that road have voted in Pall Mall for the last 100 years," Smith said. "I think they should be able to vote in Pall Mall now instead of driving to the top of the mountain."
Smith also says he and his commissioners want to sit down with the election board and discuss why some polling places were switched.
When asked if they can change it back, Smith said, "Well I'm not going to say we can, but we're going to add some pressure to see if we can."
Fentress County is proud of its heritage, especially Sgt. York, the World War I Medal of Honor winner who put the small community on the map.
"I would like to see the people on Delk Creek Road continue to vote in Pall Mall where they have always lived and voted," Debbie said.
Earline believes Fentress County will do what's right for the people. She says having to travel miles out of her way to vote and passing by her old precinct, as the crow flies, doesn't make sense.
"I'd like to see it back like it was," she said. "Everybody go to their own community and vote."
Fentress County Commission hopes to work out this issue with the county election commission. No date has been set for a meeting, but they hope to get together sometime over the next 10 days.
If you have a consumer issue, call the 6 On Your Side Hotline at 865-633-5974 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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