Thursday, June 12th, 2008
Mercer County to have 4 fewer polling places
By William Kincaid
The Mercer County Board of Elections has reduced the number of polling places for the November presidential election from 12 to eight. Also, three local schools are being required to make room for voting on Election Day, even though some school officials are unhappy about it.
The reason for the consolidation and move to school buildings is that some of the previous voting locations were not in compliance with state standards for handicapped accessibility, parking and signage.
The board of elections finalized the polling locations on Wednesday morning.
Director Lynn Wylds said the former polling locations in Fort Recovery, St. Henry and Maria Stein will be relocated to those schools. Wylds said various other public locations were sought in those areas, but only the schools were deemed adequate to meet all state requirements for polling sites. State law allows counties to hold elections in any public building.
Marion Local Schools had little problems with the request, Wylds said.
"They're going to let us use the elementary gym," she told the board.
Fort Recovery officials were concerned about disruptions of the school day and security, while St. Henry officials said they had no space, as various sporting events are scheduled that day.
"They don't have a choice," Chairman Del Kramer said.
He later pointed out school officials should be agreeable because if it wasn't for the voting system, they wouldn't have money to operate.
Board member Mark Uhlenhake wasn't so sure it was going to be that easy. "They (school officials) are going to think of more excuses why we can't be there," he predicted.
At the end of the meeting, board members unanimously approved the designation of Fort Recovery Elementary School, St. Henry High School and Marion Local Elementary School as polling locations.
Previously, polling locations were held at the Fort Recovery American Legion, St. Henry American Legion and Knights of St. John Hall in Maria Stein. These locations had issues with handicap accessibility, parking and posting signs.
In February, the board of elections sent out letters to all polling locations, informing officials of the changes that needed to be made. Many did not respond, according to Wylds.
"St. Henry (American Legion) - they wouldn't work with us," she said, adding officials there wouldn't even unlock the doors for county personnel.
Both firehouses in Fort Recovery and St. Henry were not accessible because of inadequate parking, Wylds said.
Many other polling location changes were made at the Wednesday meeting. The Galleria - which Wylds said is considered public because it is a shopping center - will replace the Mercer County Junior Fair Building for all Celina city precincts.
The reduction in polling locations is due to Center Township voters going to the Galleria and Blackcreek, Liberty and Hopewell townships all voting at the Community Building in Rockford. In the past those voters went to four separate locations - the Center Township House, Blackcreek Township House, St. Paul's United Church of Christ and St. Johns Lutheran Church.
Washington Township's location will switch from the Washington Township House to Fort Recovery Elementary School. Franklin Township will move from the Franklin Township Fire Station to the former Franklin School in Montezuma.
By reducing the number of polling locations, Wylds said the county will be able to save money through the reduction of election equipment and technical personnel. Also, the county won't have to pay any rental fees to use private locations.
Board members on Wednesday also accepted an offer from the Mercer County Sheriffs' Department to have a deputy at every school and polling location.
Where to vote:
Mercer County Board of Election members say they may take some heat for changing some of the polling locations for the November general election. But the relocations, they believe, are necessary to stay in compliance with state standards.
Board member Betty Cook said if people complain about having to drive further to polling locations as fuel prices escalate, they can also vote absentee.
The following is the polling locations for the November general election and the precincts voting at those locations:
• St. Henry High School, 391 E. Columbus St. - St. Henry North, St. Henry South, Granville East, Granville West.
• Galleria Banquet Hall, 909 E. Wayne St., Celina - A-101, A -102, A-103, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, East Jefferson North, East Jefferson South, West Jefferson, Center Township.
• Coldwater Municipal Center, 610 W. Sycamore St. - Coldwater West, Coldwater Central, Coldwater Northeast, Coldwater Southeast, Butler East, Butler West.
• Fort Recovery Elementary School, 865 Sharpsburg Road - Fort Recovery Village, Gibson Township, Recovery Township, Washington Township.
• Rockford Community Building, 402 Holly Lane - Rockford Village, Dublin Township, Blackcreek Township, Liberty Township, Hopewell Township.
• Mendon Union Fire Station, 103 Drake St. - Mendon-Union.
• Marion Local Elementary School, 7956 state Route 119 - Marion East, Marion West.
• Franklin Elementary School, Montezuma - Franklin East, Franklin West.
- William Kincaid