WESTMINSTER — The City Council voted its approval for a second polling place for the next election, but at least two other approvals are needed before one can be established west of Route 31.
At Monday night's meeting, city attorney John B. Walsh Jr. told the council it also will have to amend the city charter -- which currently mentions only one polling "place" -- and change the city code.
Mayor W. Benjamin Brown, an advocate for the creation of a secondpolling place, said it will reduce the number of people voting at the Fire Hall from about 5,000 to 3,000 and will lessen congestion in the downtown area on election days.
The only citizen to speak on the measure said a second polling place would make it more convenient for commuters who live in the city and don't have time to come downtown before leaving for work.
"There is a large segment of the population that commutes," said Margaret Bair, a resident of Avondale Run. "Creating a second polling place would encourage more people to vote."
The measure's single opponent was Council President William F. Haifley, who said that it didn't make sense to divide the electorate so that 37 percent would vote in the newly created poll and the remaining 63 percent at the Fire Hall.
Brown pointed out that while onlyone-third of the city's population lives west of Route 31, that fraction lives in the fastest-growing area of the city.
He also statedthat Westminster could have three polling places, because the average number of voters per polling place in Maryland is about 1,700, or one-third the number of voters now voting in the Fire Hall.
Creation of a second polling place will cost the city at least $2,500 and possibly as much as $5,000, said City Clerk John Dudderar. The bulk of the cost would be in postage to notify voters of the change in their polling place, he said.
Despite the sentiments of many residents, Brown said the second polling place is not an indication of "benefiting one group over another."
He said many people told him that the "newcomers should have enough grit to come downtown, fight the congestion, find a parking place and vote at the Fire Hall."
City officials said they haven't yet identified a polling place.
In other matters, the council approved advertising on city taxicabs but failed toenact a ban on advertising tobacco and liquor products.
The council wanted to ban advertising of both products, but Walsh advised thatsuch a prohibition was not within the power of the council.
The measure, requested by Carroll County Cab, is intended to provide supplemental income to the city's only taxi company.
Since the council cannot ban tobacco and liquor advertising on the cabs, Councilman Edward S. Caldwell said he hopes local business will "get the first shot" at the ads and pre-empt the tobacco and liquor advertising.