Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Metro columnist Dan Casey: Make sure your polling place hasn't changed
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Read Dan's blog
The big election is only 42 days away. Many of you have been paying attention; others are oblivious.
For the latter, it's time to get serious. But just for a moment, forget about the candidates, the issues, the polls and all that infernal spin. Instead, pay some attention to your new, state-issued voter registration card. It arrived in the mail recently or it will soon.
Every voter in Virginia is supposed to get one, and for more than 7,000 voters in the Roanoke Valley, there may be a minor surprise. I got one when my new card came in the mail Saturday. The polling place has changed.
We live in Raleigh Court No. 4, a precinct with roughly 1,100 registered voters. Since 1994 (and probably earlier) my neighbors and I have been voting at Raleigh Court Elementary School. Even after the school closed they still conducted voting in the gym there.
As indicated on the new voter registration card, this year we will be voting instead at the Lakeland Masonic Lodge #190. Roanoke City Council actually passed an ordinance on this back on July 16.
Monday morning I called Roanoke Registrar Lavern Shepherd to find out what was up with the change. The reason is innocuous: A circuit breaker kept tripping in the gym the last time they conducted voting there. Not only was that affecting lighting, "it was affecting our machines," she told me. Those voting machines have been electronic since at least 2004.
So Shepherd had to find a new and nearby polling place. She sent letters to neighborhood churches and other potential spots. Some responded and some didn't. One that was enthusiastic had a less-than-ideal setup to ensure accessibility for handicapped voters, she said.
That left the Masons hall, which is not exactly central to the precinct and is kind of tucked away off Grandin Road. You may not even realize it's there. It's on the left, a little more than half a mile past Patrick Henry High School as you're heading out of town on Grandin.
Shepherd said the city will have an ad in Friday's paper notifying voters of the change, and they'll send out postcards to Raleigh Court No. 4 voters with a map denoting the new location, too.
That's the only polling place change in Roanoke this year. But it's far from the only change for readers of this newspaper. And that's why it's important every voter look closely at the "voting location" lines on their new voter registration cards.
For example, three precincts have changed locations in Roanoke County. Those are the Bennett Springs, Garst Mill and Hunting Hills precincts. If you live in one of those, pay attention to the information below, which is courtesy of Roanoke County Registrar Judy Stokes.
>> Polls for the Bennett Springs precinct, which in recent years has conducted voting at the Masons Cove Fire Station on Bradshaw Road, has been moved to the Mountain Pass Baptist Church on Catawba Valley Drive (U.S. 311). The change affects 1,040 voters registered in that precinct. Stokes said the new location can better handle a big turnout expected on Election Day.
>> The Garst Mill precinct used to vote at the old Roanoke County library on Electric Road. That has since closed. For November's election, voting will take place in the upstairs community room of the Cave Spring Rescue Station. It's next to the Brambleton Center, more or less across Brambleton Avenue from Cave Spring Corners shopping center. The change affects 1,861 registered voters.
>> Voting in the Hunting Hills precinct, which has just under 3,200 registered voters, has taken place for many years at the Celebration Church of God on Buck Mountain Road. This year it will happen at the new South County Library at 6303 Merriman Road, where there is more parking and better handicapped accessibility.
It's very likely there are precinct changes in other places beyond these two jurisdictions. So check your new voter registration card today.
Some confusion inevitably occurs every Election Day. With Virginia pegged as one of a handful of swing states in November's election, your vote may mean more than ever before.
Make sure it gets counted.