Panel Reviews Location For City's Polling Place

Area West Of Route 31 Studied By Committee

January 15, 1992|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — In looking for another polling place for the city's growing roster of registered voters, a City Council committee is eyeing the area westof Route 31.

The council's Finance Committee directed City Clerk John Dudderar Monday to compile a list of registered voters who live west of New Windsor Road to determine whether the numbers warrant an additional polling place.

Providing an additional polling place has been on the agenda of Mayor W. Benjamin Brown for some time. The previous council rejected the plan, but the current board sent the proposal to the Finance Committee for further consideration.

Brown has maintained that statistics show another polling place is needed. He said the city has about 5,000 registered voters. Voters now cast ballots in city elections at the Westminster Volunteer Fire Department on East Main Street.

Although the next municipal election isn't until May 1993, the committeeis looking at providing the full council with a report at its Feb. 10 meeting. An additional polling place would require a charter amendment and a public hearing before adoption.

Besides wrestling with the notion of another polling place, the committee has asked Dudderar to research the cost of leasing or purchasing new voting machines.

The city has four voting machines, given to Westminster by the county Board of Education when new machines made them

obsolete, Dudderar said.

Before Monday's meeting, committee Chairman Stephen V. Chapin Sr., a councilman, researched the number of polling places in other Maryland cities with populations similar to Westminster's.

Chapin's research showed the results were "all over the wall." Hyattsville, for instance, has four polling places, but only 29.1 percent of the city's registered voters cast ballots in the last election.

In Westminster, by comparison, 24.6 percent of the voters voted.

The questions the committee is attempting to answer include: Will another polling place encourage residents to vote? What logic does the committee use to pick other polling places? How much will it cost the city to provide an additional polling place?

City Attorney John B. Walsh Jr. said he had no legal concerns about adding another polling place because the council is not proposing new precincts or wards. He said the council would be required to inform all registered voters abouta new polling place.

In suggesting New Windsor Road as a boundary, Brown said Route 31 is a "clear dividing line" for the city and would not confuse voters.

"You either live east or west of Route 31,"he said.

Council President William F. Haifley suggested the committee include other dividing lines, such as the railroad, in their research.

"There's nothing magic about 31," Haifley said. "(We) couldeasily use the railroad as a dividing line."

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