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Published: Wednesday, 3/9/2005

Delta: Not all glad of switch in election site

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

DELTA - A decision by the Fulton County Board of Elections to relocate voting locations to a site outside the village of Delta is causing some concern locally.

The change could "disenfranchise quite a few of the voters," and as a result, the shift could affect local elections, said Delta Mayor Don Gerdes.

However, the board of elections maintains that the new site - the American Legion hall, about a mile outside of the village - is a better site for voters and voting equipment.

Residents in Delta's three precincts will vote at the Legion beginning in November, said Gloria Marlatt, director of the board of elections. The board has changed voting locations in Pettisville and Fayette, too, she said.

For many years voters in Delta's Precinct 1 cast ballots at Memorial Hall while voters in Precincts 2 and 3 voted at a bank and church. Limited parking caused problems, and there were complaints about election signs at the church. There is ample parking at the Legion, she said.

Mayor Gerdes said he's disappointed that village officials didn't know that changes were being considered until after the board made its decision. He contacted the board about his concerns and tried to find an alternate site inside the village.

At his request, the Pike-Delta-York school board discussed the possibility of using the high school's auxiliary gymnasium as a voting location. The school board is willing to make the gym available, said Superintendent Russ Griggs who sent a letter to the elections board to offer the use of the school facility.

According to the board of elections' letter to the mayor and superintendent, the board's experience with school facilities "has not been good," and complaints from voters prompted the move from schools in Pettisville and Fayette.

Lack of direct, close access from the parking lot to a voting location causes problems at schools, according to the elections board. In addition, voters compete for space in hallways with students.

Mayor Gerdes said he planned to contact board of elections' members to discuss the location decision, and he said he would contact the Ohio Secretary of State's office to lodge his concerns. "I want to tell them that we found an alternate site, but that it hasn't been fully considered," he said. "I don't have anything against the elections board," he said, but he would prefer a polling location inside the village.

"A lot of people walk to the polls," Mr. Gerdes said, but it would be too far for people to walk to the Legion hall. Some voters might opt to stay home from the polls rather than putting in the extra effort to drive or find a ride to the Legion, some residents said.

Ms. Marlatt said that it would save taxpayers money by consolidating polling locations. New voting equipment for handicapped voters, for instance, can be shared at one location.

As a result of other changes, Pettisville residents will vote at the park pavilion rather than at the school. In the village of Fayette, the Fayette precinct and the Gorham precinct will move from the high school to the Church of the Nazarene.

Contact Janet Romaker at:

jromaker@theblade.com

or 419-724-6006.



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