Voting made easier for elderly, disabled School moves its polling site NORTH COUNTY Linthicum * Ferndale * Brooklyn Park * Pumphrey

November 02, 1992|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

For years, poll worker Lloyd W. Mitten has worried that the steps leading to voting booths in the cafeteria of the former Brooklyn Park High School might have kept some of his neighbors home on Election Day.

But elderly or disabled voters won't have to struggle or depend on others to help them to get up those steps when they come to cast their ballots tomorrow.

The polling places for Precincts 4 and 18 have been moved to the opposite end of the building, where a ramp makes it easier for the elderly and disabled to reach the auditorium and media center of what is now Brooklyn Park/Lindale Middle Junior High Schools.

"They would get somewhat exhausted going up on this incline," recalled Mr. Mitten, a captain for two Brooklyn Park precincts with 3,122 registered voters. "Sometimes I'd feel sorry as they'd struggle to get up the steps to vote."

The handicapped ramp was installed about a year ago. For those to whom the steps had become a frustrating barrier, this will make all the difference, said Mr. Mitten, who predicts voter turnout will jump to a new high by the next election.

Starting tomorrow, Precinct 4 will vote in the media center, and Precinct 18 will vote in the auditorium, next to the school's largest parking lot.

Del. Joan Cadden, D-31, said she had complained in the past to election officials that many elderly or handicapped voters often refused offers to transfer to a barrier-free polling place or to vote absentee.

Nancy Crawford, administrator of the county Board of Elections, said she had offered to let those voters transfer to other polling places but that they "wanted to go to their own polling place."

The last straw came two years ago, when a man in a wheelchair had to be carried up the steps to vote, then carried back down, Ms. Cadden said.

This year, she contacted elections officials, who recently toured the school to consider other options.

The school principal pointed out that a ramp had been built recently, and election officials authorized the change.

"It really was done for convenience and safety of all constituents," Ms. Cadden said. "It always has been a real hazard."

But the change came only a week before the election, and Ms. Cadden fears that voters might drive into the one-way circular driveway toward the cafeteria and miss the new polling spot altogether.

Poll workers will be stationed in the driveway in an attempt to catch voters before they drive to the wrong end of the school, she said.

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