More on Closing County Vote Polling Stations

by jhwygirl

Sounds like the county is on the defensive over its plan to consolidate precincts and close polling stations, with The Indy first on the story.

KPAX has covered it too, and The Missoulian has hit it twice, here and here.

For some time, the county has planned to consolidate precincts. That’s pretty uncontroversial – few even know their precinct. Announcing the consolidations, along with polling place closures has put more than a few people up in arms.

To understand the impact of what it is that the county is proposing to do, check out Forward Montana’s google map of the polling closures around the county, which is darn helpful to visualize the impact to voters.

Honestly, the whole thing has opened me questioning the efficiency of what we had in the first place. They’ve got one polling station there west of Russell and east of Reserve – a dense single and mulit-family saturated area. I live there – yet, I’m currently driving across Reserve to one of the two polling stations east of Reserve, and in what is really a significantly less dense neighborhood, instead of using the polling station about 4 blocks from my home.

How is that making sense? Closing one Franklin School and pushing the bulk of people over Reserve and over to C.S. Porter or Hawthorn? Because Frankly doesn’t seem to be used efficiently right now.

That ain’t planning.

So take a look, people – you too out there in the county. Because instead of talking to the neighborhood councils, at least – who might of been able to provide some cohesive transportation-on-the-ground-practicality to a plan, instead, we’ve got a bunch of colored lines on a spreadsheet that we’re supposed to make sense of.

So glad Forward Montana did that map.

If you are concerned about the closing of polling stations, and want the county to take time to get community input on putting together a plan that is workable, why not sign Forward Montana’s petition?

While you’re at it, think about sending off an email to the Board of County Commissioners. The county Elections Office is asking that public comment be submitted there – and here is a link to their information on the proposal.

Look. I don’t think there’s any evil conspiracy going on here, but I do see one thing that seems to reoccur periodically when it comes to county government business: There’s not a lot of public information put on there on what they’re doing. How many times have I blogged that? Noticing – if it occurs – is short. Stuff like staff reports or maps or attachments aren’t generally available online.

Plain and simple, it isn’t geared towards serving the 2009 citizen of Missoula.

And when there isn’t a lot of public information put out there, and people start asking the county what is going on, county officials sometime seem to get downright indignant, which appears to be the case now. Remember the time-out county administrator Ann Mary Dussault needed when pressed last year about the undefined plan to bring numerous bonds and levys before the voters?

Read that first Missoulian story. Numerous county officials seem to be taking it personally that there is (1) media inquiry into the matter, (2) public interest, and (3) interest groups on both sides of the aisle.

Goodness forbid people get uppity about where and how far they might have to go vote on election day.

Even Ann Mary, though, is in there defending the questions.

So just who is it that’s dug-in on this?

Of all the things government does – and it does a hell of a lot of stuff – everything they plan for is generally geared towards worst case scenarios. Buildings are built to certain earthquake and snow and wind loads….roads are built to roll certain weights. Our highways are built to roll military tanks. Police and sheriff departments train for any number of maxed events, and yet here is the county, closing polling stations based on off-year election traffic.

  1. Jim Lang

    I noted in the other thread that I have cast most of my votes at the courthouse, but the others were cast at Petty Creek Fire Station, another one on the closure list. A lot of the time I lived up Petty Creek I was without a working car… having the polling place just an 8 mile hitch down the road sometimes made my vote possible. Sure it only serves two small precincts and no doubt not easy for the elections office to service, but I think it is important for this and the Nine Mile station to stay open.

  2. Anon

    Anything against absentee voting? Might save an 8 mile walk. Unless your mail box is also that far away.

    • Jim Lang

      No the mailbox was closer… at least when it was standing and not taken out by some driver coming around the bend as happened at least once a winter.

      I wouldn’t be against voting absentee if I were… absent. But frankly I am just not a big fan of the USPS, I pretty much don’t use it, and I don’t trust it to deliver my vote. I wanna go to the polling place and vote, and I don’t think being a rural resident should mean I can’t do that and have to vote absentee… obviously I would be opposed to all-mail voting as well.

      • goof houlihan

        Generally, mail ballot elections are not “all mail”. You can go to the courthouse, seemingly now some sort of icon, or maybe at wherever it might be that the Clerk and Recorder sets up, and vote, even in a mail ballot election. Generally, there are places you can drop off your ballot, even if you don’t want to mail it in the (sometimes) post paid envelope.

        It’s true that you have to vote a little bit earlier, like not at 11:59 pm election night, but the larger turnout does promote democracy by providing a much easier, less expensive to the voter, VERY carbon friendly, way of voting.

        • JC

          Goof, I don’t have a problem with mail-in ballots as long as good alternatives are available on election day. And as long as it results in a better turnout.

          The last mail-in election for Missoula had election day voting at the fairgrounds. Now, if you’ve followed local politics at all, you’d realize that the fairgrounds is a hotbed of discontent. Leave it like it is. Renovate it. Move it to the Fort or out by the Airport. Do away with it all together (liquidate the property) in lieu of an events pavilion… you get the idea.

          So we’re going to move the center of the county’s voting from the Courthouse to the fairgrounds? And then when the fairgrounds ceases to be or moves, we’ll do what? Let the center of voting bounce from place to place?

          I don’t know about the rest of of you, but I like some stability in my elections. When it is election day I like to walk over to the last place I voted, because that’s most likely where I’ll vote again. I like the cookies and coffee, and talking to the election workers and judges. Watching all the kids play in the gym-because, you know years ago that was my kid and her friends. I like to check in with the observers, to get a sense of voter sentiments. Watch the ballot signature-gatherers. Chat with my neighbors.

          In a representative democracy, for me it is all about participation, and that includes election day happenings. Feeling the pulse of the community. Take all that away, and make ballot locations a subject of intense political bickering, and we might as well not even have an election.

          Might as well just give everybody a Google ID, and make them go online to “Google Poll” and vote in a myriad of polls worded to obfuscate the issues and persons. Then we can let Fox News report the winners… and losers. Cuz we’d all be losers in that scenario, and everything seems to be pointing in that direction.

          All of Ms. Zeier’s problems leading to her proposal to downsize the election day happenings could be solved in 2 ways: 1) ask for a little more money; and 2) prod the public into working the elections.

          If she can’t do that, and have the public respond, then maybe all we deserve is the right to visit Google Polls in the future, anyways.

          • goof houlihan

            Jh asked me a question and I’ll answer it this way; people who don’t talk alternatives, but absolutes. People who seize an issue, identify the government as the enemy, and use that to further their own political purposes.

            I mentioned mail ballot elections, which are ubiquitous in that hotbed of conservatism and voter disenfranchisement and lack of participatory democracy, Oregon.

            JC mentions money. Given that county government finance is a zero sum game, let’s talk adding money to Vicki’s budget. From which other department’s budget will you take it? What other public “good” will you decrease in order to have more polling places? If the current polling places that are scheduled to be eliminated didn’t exist, how would you have ever voted?

            I’m on permanent absentee now, and while I could miss a school board election due to a busy day sometimes, now I never miss an election. I didn’t miss the election on September 11th, 2001, but 97% of the voters did. What if we’d have done mail ballot elections election? Most of the votes would have been cast already. Mail ballots are weather or one day circumstance dependent.

            You present a false dichotomy. Wasn’t the Democrats’ primary between Tester his opponent, “Intense political bickering”? It wasn’t a mail ballot election. You can get “intense political bickering” with any way of holding an election.

            The turnouts tell the tale; average turnout for mail ballot elections is higher than average turnout for one day vote at the poll elections.

            I’d just as soon avoid the petitions, thanks. But we can have the petition versus representative democracy discussion at a later date.

          • goof houlihan

            Oh, and I noticed that many of the polling places have access issues. How much will it cost to bring those into ADA compliance? It’s not just the cost of keeping them open, but making them accessible to missoulians with disabilities.

  3. Jim Lang

    which polling stations have access issues? do they include any of the polling stations that have been discussed here? the U , the courthouse, petty creek or nine mile?

    • goof houlihan

      Good question for Vicki, Jim. She’s your Clerk and Recorder. Have you asked her anything about this issue? County row officers are some of the most accessible elected officials in Montana.

      • Jim Lang

        No, it’s a question for YOU, because YOU said:

        “Oh, and I noticed that many of the polling places have access issues. ”

        Was that a truthful statement, or not? Are you just making up random stuff, or did you actually notice that “many of the polling places have access issues”?

        If you are being honest, please name the polling places that YOU are talking about.

        • goof houlihan

          Maybe YOU did ask ME, but fortunately, I can tell you to FUCK OFF. I hope that’s honest enough for you.

          Do your own investigating, or, perhaps, bother to read what Vicki’s had to say.

          • Jim Lang

            It’s clear you aren’t interested in a reasonable discourse, or my simple question would have garnered an answer.

            I don’t know if you are a liar – perhaps you are just a jerk? either way you aren’t adding anything of value to this discussion.

          • goofhoulihan

            Yes, I apologize for that outburst. However, questioning my honesty, isn’t having a legitimate discourse, Jim, so my apology is to others for my outburst, and you can pretend all you want that you’re having reasonable discourse, but you weren’t, not with your shouting and rhetoric.

            i don’t think this is the quote to which I referred, but if it is, then I could have been mistaken in the “ada access” assumption. Maybe it’s access in the sense of “we can’t get into the building the night before or early enough on election day”, type of “accessibility”, or other factors from the owners of the building.

            But I doubt it. Polling places get closed for precisely ada issues, but I shouldn’t have applied my more general experience to the specific situation.

            “Zeier said the locations were selected based on a variety of factors, including a limited number of registered voters in the district, another polling place nearby or accessibility challenges.”

      • When was the American with Disabilities Act passed … what, nearly 20 years ago? Then why aren’t these public facilities (schools, court houses, etc.) accessible to all Americans?

        • Jim Lang

          Sure sounds like BS to me…

        • goof houlihan

          Because they’re able to “make other arrangements”, to meet accessibility requirements. And some accessibility standards, for parking lot and sidewalk slopes, for example, aren’t easily solved.

          • Jim Lang

            goof houlihan: “Oh, and I noticed that many of the polling places have access issues. ”

            Which ones? or was that just a lie?

  4. problembear

    mike mayer over at summit independent living center would know the answer to the questions about accessibility. mike and his group have been at the forefront of pushing for access for twenty years or more here in missoula. i would trust his judgment on the issue.

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