Polling places could change

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Tighter restrictions from the Help Americans Vote Act have led the Marengo County Probate Judge’s office and Commission to take a close look at some of their polling places.

In south Marengo County, several voting places were approved for mergers Tuesday

to allow people a suitable place to vote. The decision for these mergers came because it would be more difficult to restore some of the voting houses than to simply merge them with nearby locations.

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Neilson used the Wayne voting booth as an example.

“The Wayne voting booth is in awful condition,” Neilson said. “It is not handicapped accessible and it is not air conditioned. I thought it would be best to merge the Wayne voting booth with Sweet Water.”

Neilson said some voters in the area who lived on U.S. Highway 43 might be closer to Linden and prefer to vote at the old courthouse. Neilson said they would work with the Board of Registrars to find the best place for them to vote.

The Lasca voting booth was also approved to merge with Nicholsville.

The Half Acre Community Center was approved for a merger, but there were three options. Voters could go to Myrtlewood, Nanafalia or Aimwell depending on the closest location. Residents of Putnam would also merge with Nanafalia unless the commission receives feedback informing them of a suitable location.

Commissioner Max Joiner said they previously sought feedback from voters in the area and most agreed it would be best to merge.

“It looks like the only option we have right now,” Joiner said. “We have asked the people in the community if there was an alternate site where the box is located now. They have asked for it to be moved and we have looked at some other sites that were unsafe.”

Moving the boxes was not their first choice, Joiner said, but in order to meet standards it was a necessary evil.

“I am not against leaving the box there,” Joiner said. “I have told everybody that, but without a suitable location that will meet all the requirements we have to meet it is tough to do.”

Efforts were made, Joiner said, to find alternative locations in the areas where voting booths were not up to par. Unfortunately, most areas were unsuccessful.

“I have asked people to give me feedback and call me about this,” Joiner said. “A lot of them have said we can’t find a place and it would suit us fine to move.”

The mergers have more benefits than just safer locations. By joining locations together, the county would have less voting booths, which means less voting machines and materials. Joiner said this could save the county from $30,000 to $40,000.

Though voting locations could change, Neilson said, poll workers would not be cut. She said they would simply transfer to their new locations.

“We are not going to change the poll workers,” Neilson said. “We will utilize the poll workers wherever we merge them to, so it is not going to cut anybody out of that job.”