New poll site questioned

Published 10:17 pm Thursday, March 3, 2016

Changes to polling places approved a month ago are now being questioned as citizens are becoming more aware of the changes.

City Council voted on Wednesday to officially communicate citizens’ concerns to the Electoral Board and the voter registrar following a lengthy discussion initiated by Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett.

He said some of his constituents in the Nansemond River precinct told him during Tuesday’s primary election that they are not satisfied with the number of parking spaces available at their new polling place. The changes approved at the Feb. 3 meeting were not used for this week’s voting, but it was the first time many voters became aware of them, as notices were passed out to voters at their old polling place.

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Voters in the Nansemond River precinct vote at Nansemond River High School. However, a slate of changes approved a month ago included moving the polling location for that precinct to Canaan Baptist Church, also on Nansemond Parkway.

Bennett said some of his constituents said there are only about 50 spaces at the church. They also had some other concerns including handicap accessibility, he said.

Changes to six polling places were made at the Feb. 3 meeting. In cases involving schools, there was a safety consideration, Electoral Board secretary Beverly Outlaw said on Thursday.

“We’ve received concerns from citizens regarding safety of having polling places in school because of access to children by people who might wish to do them harm,” she said. “One of our considerations was getting polling places out of schools that did not have adequate separation.”

The annual November election day is usually a planned day off for public school students for that very reason. However, the same is not usually done for primaries and special elections.

Outlaw also said the voting location within Nansemond River had not been adequate in past years, although Tuesday’s election was a better situation.

“The space they gave us for voting had been in the auditorium, which was not an adequate space to vote,” she said. The gymnasium had been unavailable in the past due to scheduling conflicts.

Outlaw did not respond to Wednesday’s conversation because she was not able to watch the City Council meeting due to follow-up activities from Tuesday’s election.

However, she did say that new polling places will be monitored and concerns will be addressed.

On Wednesday, Bennett made a motion to ask the registrar to look at the situation. However, it died for lack of a second.

Some of his colleagues on council had concerns.

“I think now the mindset’s already in motion for that site,” Councilman Roger Fawcett said. “I’m not so sure we need to go there this time. It hasn’t even been tried and proven yet. (The registrar) did go out and investigate this with her team, and they obviously came to the conclusion that it would work.”

Councilman Tim Johnson said he has also heard concerns about the new polling place in Holland but acknowledged it might be too late to change it for this November’s election.

“It’s a pretty lengthy process,” he said.

In the end, the council voted unanimously for a motion by Councilman Mike Duman to communicate the concerns to the registrar’s office and electoral board.

The other polling places changes made in February were as follows:

  • Bennett’s Creek: Nansemond River Baptist Church (formerly Creekside Elementary School)
  • Hillpoint: Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church (formerly Hillpoint Elementary School)
  • Holland: Holland Community House (formerly Holland Fire Station)
  • Lakeside: Suffolk Presbyterian Church (formerly Morgan Memorial Library)
  • Whaleyville: Whaleyville Recreation Center (formerly Whaleyville Community Center)