A plan to reduce the number of polling places for November’s city elections appears doomed. The proposal got no support from city commissioners today in informal discussions before they take a formal vote on Monday.
In order to save money at a time when more people are voting by mail, City Clerk Kelly Koos and City Attorney Tim McCausland proposed reducing the number of polling places from 25 to 12, similar to January’s special election that resulted in the election of Sara Roberts McCarley to the commission.
But commissioners today said they were concerned that voters would be confused by the changes, especially since voting would revert to the full number of polling places for county, state and federal elections.
“I’m going to be against it,” Commissioner Scott Franklin said. “I understand the efficiencies and I know we’re trending toward vote by mail, but I hate to have people go, ‘Which election is it today and where do I go?’ I guarantee we’re going to have a lot of people go to where they went for federal elections and then nobody’s there, and they’re going to say, ‘To hell with it; I’m just not voting.’ ”
Commissioner Justin Troller said that all the people he’s heard from during the last two weeks are concerned the change would limit their opportunity to participate in elections. “The perception is that, whether it’s for good intentions or not, we’re trying to limit opportunities,” he said. “I don’t want us to be part of that conversation at all.”
“I think the confusion would be rampant,” McCarley said. And Commissioner Phillip Walker said, “I’m in favor of doing all we can to ensure people can vote.”
Commissioner Bill Read also expressed concerns about confusion. Mayor Bill Mutz and Commissioner Stephanie Madden did not attend this morning’s agenda study session.
After hearing the commission comments, City Attorney McCausland acknowledged the plan’s uncertain fate: “It’s looking grim, Kelly,” he said to the city clerk.
Members of the public will be able to speak for or against the proposal to reduce polling places at the commission’s 3 p.m. meeting Monday at City Hall.
The next city election, scheduled for Nov. 5, will include up to three City Commission races as well as a vote on recommended changes to the City Charter.
The seat being vacated by Troller, who has reached term limits, has already attracted three candidates: retired hospital executive Carole Phillipson, entrepreneur Pablo Sologaistoa and educator Shandale Terrell.
Incumbents Read and Walker have filed for re-election and have not attracted opposition yet.
Koos expressed frustration this morning that the city has had to remove candidate forms from the city website. A lawyer is threatening to sue Florida governments over online documents that can’t be accessed by sight-impaired people, she said.
The PDF candidate files that the city posts online are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Koos said, so she is contacting vendors who might provide software to produce documents friendly to screen-reading devices.