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Voting-site plan
•Proposal available online at www.acimap.us/acebworking
•Public encouraged to review the proposal and submit comments using the online form at www.allencounty.us/voting-locations
•Public comments will be accepted through Sept. 28

Input encouraged for county poll proposal

Allen County voters could avoid the frustration of standing in line in the wrong location during next year’s elections by offering input on a new proposal to change and consolidate voting locations, officials said Friday.

Residents have until Sept. 28 to view the proposal, which includes an interactive map highlighting polling locations, addresses and precincts.

The Allen County Election Board introduced the proposal Wednesday.

The plan would change the locations of more than half of the county’s 327 precincts, eliminating 35 polling locations and adding 18 new ones.

Allen County GOP Chairman Steve Shine had only briefly reviewed the plan Friday, but on the surface “it appears to maximize services while minimizing costs, representing good government,” he said. “I’ve been in polling places that were underused,” he said. “It costs the same to operate a small, little-used site as it does a larger, heavily used site,” Shine said.

It should not be a problem to have the plan – if approved – in place for next year’s elections, he said.

The key to lessening public confusion and irritation includes a constant stream of public information before the spring primary, Shine said.

Allen County Democratic Chairman John Court has seen the proposal and plans to “dissect it to the full extent” this weekend, he said.

Affected precinct workers are also reviewing the plan and will offer their input, as well, Court said.

“We are watchful for anything that makes it harder or creates a challenge in the voting process,” he said.

And he won’t be the only one watching.

Bruce Norman Stier, an attorney and member of the Wayne Township Advisory Board, also said he will keep an eye on the proposal’s progress.

Stier was pleasantly surprised to find there were only a few urban polling sites being considered for closure, he said.

“I understand the rationale for expanding (sites) where there is growth but am concerned about the closing of established sites, especially in areas where there are more elderly, disabled, lower-income levels and people are less mobile,” he said.

Stier was part of an informal group of Allen County attorneys who volunteered to work in the 2012 elections as poll watchers.

“Among Democrats, there is a growing concern about the measures being put in place to restrict voting,” Stier said.

Assigned to a polling site on the south side of the city, Stier said about 20 percent of the people who came in to vote during last year’s elections were in the wrong location.

“It adds to the frustration of voters when they are moved around, and they voiced that frustration,” he said.

William Browne, audit budget chairman for the Allen County Republican Party, said if the sites are downsized then people need to know up front where to go to vote.

But he said he understands the need for reorganization.

“Voting expenses are getting very costly for both sides,” he said.

Although he has confidence that the Election Board is working toward a viable solution, it might not happen as fast as anticipated, Browne said.

“This is a nonpartisan issue,” he said. “We are all going to have to educate our voters well in advance.”

vsade@jg.net

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