Tuesday, November 22, 2011

WARNING: 14 Polling Locations in Montgomery County May Close Down

A Maryland Juice reader has forwarded notice (and criticism) of proposed election precinct changes in Montgomery County. Essentially, the Board of Elections is proposing closing some polling locations and moving the voters to other sites, in order to save a little money. There are 14 precincts in MoCo that are targeted for merger. See the warning note below:
Juice, this was forwarded to me -- short notice of proposed changes. For Woodside Park, this means a voting place that is on the far side of the beltway, no public transportation access, limited parking, limited shelter in inclement weather, a space too small to handle the number of voting machines. Most significantly, it discourages votes turnout in an important year to save approx $2,000 -- what could be more penny wise and pound foolish?
The details of some of the proposed polling location changes are contained within the following (redacted) email from Barbara Sanders of the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County. The message was provided by our source above:
I regularly attend the Montgomery County Board of Elections meetings for the League of Women Voters. Changes in Congressional, Council and School Board redistricting maps are now affecting the lines of voting precincts, under the purview of the Board of Elections. An entire precinct must be contained in a single Congressional, School, Council and Legislative Districts and election districts (the 13 part of the precinct in Silver Spring, specified in the County Charter). There also has been a reduction in the funds allotted for judges in the 2012 cycle, so the Board is trying to make the best use of its more limited funds by proposing these mergers and reducing the number of private sites for which they have to pay rental charges. Any of these mergers have to have the same set of districts.

Where practical, the staff and Board tries to relocate lower voter populations to the precinct with larger voter counts (not the case for 13-14). The fourteen precincts county-wide still being considered for merger had populations of from just over 2000 or less and/or are voting in private facilities. Target precinct size voter count average ranges are 3500 to 3800. The distance between voting sites in the proposed merged precincts varied from .73 to 2.49. All voting sites are reviewed for access to transit routes, adequate parking and physical mobility accessibility issues.

Here's some information from the Board link off the Board of Elections website, www.777vote.org, for the proposed change of polling place locations in the 2012 election cycle. The two that affect downtown SS areas are Saint Luke to Argyle Recreation Center on Forest Glen Rd (actually Argyle Park Activity Center) and the Silver Spring YMCA to Eastern MS. Comments may be sent or presented at Saturday hearing or at Monday, with advance notice to Margie Roher - Saturday is probably better submission time for most consideration.
Public Comments Directed to: elections@montgomerycountymd.gov
1. The Saint Luke precinct, 13-14 is CD 8, School 4, Council 5 and Leg 18 - 1,981 voters - savings expected from rental fee $500, election judge pay and delivery costs of $2,154 for the primary election. Its merger at Argyle Activity Center, 13-66 matches the districts and has only 755 voters. Saint Luke proposed merger is 1.62 miles. Also, the proposed polling place is located in precinct 13-19 - not within the home precinct for either of the merging precincts, which is a priority.

2. The Silver Spring YMCA precinct, 13-12 is CD 8, School 4, Council 5 and Leg 20 - 1,371 voters - savings expected from rental fee $300, election judge pay and delivery costs of $2,154 for the primary election. Its merger at Eastern MS, 13-15 matches the districts and currently has 2,434 voters. The Silver Spring Y proposed merger with Eastern MS is 1.59 miles.

Looking at other possible voting places nearby these locations: The M-NCPPC Auditorium, 13-10 is Leg 20 -closer to Saint Luke, but NOT a match currently , but possible merger after the LEGISLATIVE redistricting if you become Leg 20 - has 1,604 voters Silver Spring Library, 13-05 is also Leg 20 - it is less than optimum precinct size at 2,542 voters and a merger with the YMCA would be within preferred size range.

Woodlin Elementary, 13-07 is Leg 18 - a match for Saint Luke, but already has 2,515 voters so would be 800 over optimum.

Margaret Schweinhaut Senior Center, 13-19 is also Leg 18, but has 2,048 voters - This seems like a better merger for 13-66 after the LEGISLATIVE redistricting if they remain in the same district, with the Saint Luke population going to the M-NCPPC Auditorium if you move to Leg 20. The Board of Elections is extremely reluctant to keep changing voting sites, especially in successive election cycles - like 2010 Saint Luke, 2012 Argyle, 2014 M-NCPPC, but there probably will have to be more changes for the 2014 cycle, after the legislative redistricting is done this spring.

I hope this information is helpful - I can try to answer any questions or just go to Margie Roher at the Board of Elections.

Barbara Sanders

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