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Trio of polling places may be relocated

February 24, 2016
Having received a request from the county's election board, the Crawford County Board of Commissioners is considering relocating three polling precincts.

Chase Smith, the Republican appointee and chair of the election board, approached the commissioners at their Jan. 28 meeting at the judicial complex in English about moving Ohio 1 and 2 and Boone to Leavenworth Elementary School, where Jennings 1 and 2 already vote.

He said the three-member election board (the other members are Democrat appointee Donna Jones and, by virtue of her elected position, Circuit Court Clerk Edna Brown, both of whom were also present) earlier in the month unanimously approved relocating the polling precincts.

Ohio 1 and Ohio 2 have independent boards and are the only two precincts within the same township that don't vote in the same location, Smith said. In the last election, two years ago, Ohio 1 voters cast ballots at the Coonhunters Club along Brooks Road, while those in Ohio 2 voted at the Fredonia Community Center.

Smith said it is a challenge to find poll workers, with the election board sometimes scrambling the morning of the election to man the polls. Combining the precincts into the same location would reduce the number of needed workers by five (three of the party with the inspector and two of the other party), he said.

Another issue with Ohio 2, Smith said, concerns the legal requirement that no campaigning is allowed within 50 feet of the entrance of the polling precinct. Fifty feet from the entrance of the Coonhunters Club is the middle of the road, he said.

There are a couple of problems with Boone, which votes at the Alton Town Hall, Smith said. One is that, because of poor cell phone reception, the inspector must leave the building to make and answer election-related calls, he said. The other, Smith said, is the facility, which doesn't have handicapped parking lines, isn't in compliance with the American Disabilities Act.

"Are you wanting me to be tarred and feathered?" joked Jim Schultz, who, as the District 3 commissioner, represents the precincts in question.

Asked his opinion on the moves, an Alton resident in attendance said, "I don't think it matters. It's a couple miles drive. Everybody drives."

District 1 Commissioner Daniel Crecelius, however, said he believes moving the polling precincts to Leavenworth would work, but he still is concerned about the inconvenience it could cause some voters.

Schultz agreed, noting that, when relocating polling places has been discussed previously, residents were not receptive because of how it could affect elderly voters and those who have difficulty traveling.

"That's my only reservations about it is how the voters in those places would feel about it," he said.

Smith noted that there are measures in place to help such voters, including absentee ballots and the traveling board, which goes to the home of in-bound voters. Unfortunately, he said, the latter has been used sparingly in the past few elections.

"If that was utilized in the way that it was intended to, which would be the elderly people who can't get out and have to get a ride on election day … it would allow that issue to be addressed," Smith said.

Asked when a decision needs to be made, Brown answered at least 29 days before the primary election, which this year will be on May 3.

"I would at least like to give the people in those precincts a chance to be heard from as to what their feelings and thoughts are," Schultz said.

"I would, too," District 2 Commissioner Randy Gilmore added, "because the last time, when we moved (a polling place) from Eckerty to Taswell, which is only about three miles, we had a lot of feedback."

The commissioners' next meeting will be tomorrow (Thursday) at the judicial complex. A closed executive session will be at 8:30 a.m., with the public meeting to begin at 9:30.

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