Pioneer Elementary could become new Holland voting precinct

Published 7:26 pm Thursday, April 1, 2021

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Pioneer Elementary School could replace the Holland Community Center as a polling site for the Holland precinct.

The Electoral Board would have to formally approve the site and then City Council vote on it for it to change. Because Pioneer Elementary was one it wanted to consider, the board needed to reach out to Suffolk Public Schools Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III to discuss the division’s willingness to allow for the use of the school as a polling site.

“We have visited many places in Holland, and looked for a place for the voting precinct, and it seems to the people who I’ve talked with that Pioneer Elementary sure seems to be the right place,” said Holy Neck Borough Councilman Tim Johnson at the March 17 City Council meeting. Holland is in that borough. “Of course, it still needs to go through the registrar’s office, through the School Board and make sure it’s OK with the superintendent.”

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The proposed change in sites has been under discussion with the city’s Electoral Board since its Jan. 5 meeting. At that time, city registrar Susan Saunders read from a Dec. 3 letter from Holland Community House president Donald Worrell, in which he stated there was not enough parking at the site and its board did not support playing host to any more elections.

“It became evident that the parking was not adequate for the number of voters that turned out,” Worrell wrote in a letter Saunders read to the board at its Jan. 5 meeting. “People were parking in the street and along the edge of residents’ yards. This made egress difficult getting to and from the main street.”

Worrell wrote that its board members met following the election and voted “to terminate the Holland Community House as a future voting precinct for the Holland area.”

In the letter, Worrell suggested Pioneer Elementary as an alternative site since it has plenty of parking, adequate lighting and was easy to get in and out of it with a traffic light on U.S. Route 58.

He sent the letter to then-Mayor Linda Johnson, current Mayor Mike Duman and Councilman Tim Johnson.

At the January Electoral Board meeting, Tim Johnson also suggested Pioneer Elementary as a possibility, calling it “a perfect site.”

With redistricting, new precincts would have to be drawn, so the board had discussed waiting to switch polling precincts until after redistricting, since there would be a primary June 8.

At the March 9 Electoral Board meeting, James Banks, a former member who was replaced in January by Issac Baker, said he had been in touch with the Holland Community House and Tim Johnson, and they had spoken with Gordon about using Pioneer and they determined that the school would be a good site for a polling place “when it can be worked out.”

Electoral Board member Beverly Outlaw said then that she hoped that the Holland Community House could still be used for the primary and then moved to Pioneer Elementary for the general election. However, Banks said that would not be possible.

“It was made perfectly clear that that site is not available for any more elections,” Banks said.

The board voted 3-0 for Saunders to get the forms from the city’s interim chief of staff Azeez Felder to begin the process to change the polling site and get the item on the council agenda.

Johnson, at the March 17 council meeting, brought up the subject during his comment period.