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Polling places to stay put

After some Suffolk citizens expressed concerns about new polling places that had been proposed for the coming election, the Electoral Board decided not to make any changes this year.

The City Council voted to change several polling places in February, after a public hearing that drew no concerns about parking or accessibility.

But when some voters learned of the changes at the March primary, they were upset.

Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett said many voters in the Nansemond River precinct, which is in his borough, thought their new polling place, Canaan Baptist Church, had insufficient parking.

After much discussion at a March meeting, City Council voted to write a letter to the electoral board expressing their concerns.

Voters in that precinct had previously voted at Nansemond River High School. However, Electoral Board secretary Beverly Outlaw said, the board wants to improve safety for everyone by getting polling places out of schools without adequate separation between the voting area and the students.

In addition, the situation at Nansemond River High School had not been adequate in the past, Outlaw said. Voters had to walk down the entire auditorium aisle and onto the stage to vote, which presented problems for some with physical ailments.

Outlaw said last week that the electoral board decided earlier this year to make no changes.

“We will take into consideration the comments and concerns we have received,” Outlaw said.

Bennett said last week that he still believes the parking will present a problem, especially with a high-interest presidential election and hotly contested local seats all on the ballot.

“I’m just concerned whether or not it’s going to be adequate parking,” Bennett said. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

In 2012, 1,715 voters in the Nansemond River precinct cast a ballot for the presidential race. With 2,795 registered voters as of June, it is the city’s seventh-largest precinct out of 27.

Bennett also said he’s worried about the narrow driveway into the parking lot at Canaan Baptist Church, on Nansemond Parkway, with open ditches on either side.

Outlaw noted last week that if any problem does materialize, the polling place can be moved before the next election.

“We really try to make the best selection within the boundaries of that precinct, and sometimes our options are few,” she said. “If we experience problems, we will do everything we can at that site to mitigate them.”