More than half the voters in Union County will be getting a new polling location and officials from the board of elections want them to know about it.
Next week, the Union County Board of Elections will be sending post cards to more than 21,000 of the county’s 38,000 registered voters. The cards are intended to inform voters about their new polling place.
“There is a lot of people that are changing poling locations and we want to make sure they are as informed as possible,” said Tina LaRoche, deputy director of the Union County Board of Elections. “When you get the green card from us, look at it.”
In the past, Union County has had 41 precincts, voting at 18 locations around the county.
This year, there will be 45 precincts voting at 10 locations.
Election officials said the decision to change and reduce polling locations was not made lightly.
Officials said a variety of factors went into it.
Director Brandon Clay said counties around the state and nation are consolidating polling locations. He said it makes sense locally.
Election officials said it can be difficult to get poll workers. Locally, the board of elections tries to have at least four elections workers at each polling location. Clay said that every election a certain amount of poll workers are not able to actually work. When that happens at a location that has just one precinct voting there, it puts a strain on the workers that are there and election officials must scramble to find more workers.
“A larger polling location, with more workers can absorb a shortage much easier,” Clay said.
Officials said it is also easier to secure ballots at a few large locations than it is to secure them at more small locations.
LaRoche said many of the single precinct locations were older and had accessibility issues as well as parking issues.
“We want to be able to make it as easy for people to vote. If they can’t park or the location isn’t ADA accessible, then they might not vote and that’s not what we want,” LaRoche said.
Officials said there is also a financial component. Clay said the county recently purchased new voting machines. He said the county was able to save thousands of dollars by combining polling locations.
LaRoche explained that election rules require a minimum of one voting machine for every 175 voters. Additionally, each polling location has at least four voting machines and two scanners. She used the example of Jackson Township, which has less than 600 voters but needed four machines. LaRoche said that by moving that polling location to North Union High School, those voters are added to a much larger total and the ratio is more efficient.
“We have limited resources and by having more machines at less locations, it allows us to use our resources as efficiently as possible and still save the tax payers money,” LaRoche said.
Once the decision to consolidate locations was made, officials needed to find facilities that could handle a one-day influx of people. LaRoche said the high schools were an obvious choice. She said schools are ADA compliant, have plenty of parking and all have a room large enough to handle the election equipment. She said this year the county will work with all three high schools in the county.
“They have been good to work with and they are all excited about this,” LaRoche said. “Each school is doing it differently, but they are all making provisions for that day.”
Election officials said they know no one likes change and it can be confusing, but they feel confident the moves will make the process easier and more secure for voters and offer better value for the tax payers.
They said it is important to make the changes now.
“We wanted to make the move this summer so people get used to it before next year’s presidential election,” LaRoche said.
In addition to getting the information for each home on the postcards, voters can use the board of elections’ website registration search to identify their new polling location.
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