County changes polling location

T he planned closure of the North Granville Firefighter Hall and a shortage of personnel has forced Washington County officials to change the polling location for registered voters in this November’s general election.
The Washington County Board of Elections will consolidate the polling location for Districts 4 and 5. Citizens who had previously cast their votes at the Community Center will now do so at Independence Hall, commonly known as the Middle Granville Firehouse. The change will be effective beginning Nov. 4. State and local primaries, scheduled for Sept. 9, will continue to be held at the Community Center.
“It’s a change of necessity,” Thomas Rogers, the Republican Deputy Commissioner of the Board of Elections said. “The building is closing.”
Supervisor Matt Hicks confirmed last week that members of the North Granville Hose Company had decided to close the community center once the weather got cold.
Scott McCullen, chief of the fire company, said the hall has not been used for anything other than elections in two years. He said the cost of keeping the facility was too much for the department to bear in light of other expenses.
“We can’t afford it. It needs some maintenance but we don’t have the money. The members aren’t even using it,” McCullen said. “If I could sell it tomorrow, I would.”
He said the county used to provide the company with some money for using the facility but haven’t in several years.
“The only reason we kept it open was for the town,” McCullen said.
The closure of the building is but one factor necessitating the change. Further complicating matters is the fact that the county has a shortage of certified election inspectors.
“Many of our inspectors are getting older. Primary elections are 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and the General Election is 5:30 a.m. to 9:30, 10 p.m. It gets to be a long day and by November it’s cold, dark and dreary,” Rogers said.
And as the inspectors have gotten older, some have become snowbirds and have moved to a warmer locale by the time November rolls around. The more technologically advanced optical scan voting machines have also deterred some would be inspectors, Rogers said.
Although the shortage is particularly acute in Granville, where officials have borrowed inspectors from other communities, it’s a problem throughout the county. Rogers said polling locations in Argyle have been consolidated as well.
Typically, a polling location requires four inspectors for one voting machine. Locations with more than one machine require additional inspectors. And there needs to be a balance of political affiliations so that one party doesn’t exceed another. For instance, if there are two Republican inspectors there needs to be two Democratic inspectors or a Democratic inspector and a third party inspector, such as someone affiliated with the Green Party. That means that not only do officials have to find inspectors, they need to find the right inspectors. And it’s not as if inspectors are making a fortune.
“A lot of people do it out of civic duty but it’s still hard to recruit new people,” Rogers said.
The change of polling locations didn’t sit well with town Councilman Matt Rathbun, a resident of North Granville.
“Why wasn’t there any discussion,” Rathbun asked. “It’s like the post office; you don’t have any say in it. People don’t have a say anymore, it just gets done.”
Rathbun suggested the Truthville Baptist Church as a better alternative for North Granville voters than Independence Hall. But Rogers said finding viable locations can be difficult because of the various requirements of being a polling location. He said officials have struggled to find a polling location in Granville for voters in districts 1, 2 and 3. Since the Forum closed, voters have utilized the Peniel Presbyterian Church.
“We’re looking for a permanent site in Granville. The church is probably temporary at least for this year,” Rogers said.

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