The Annapolis Board of Elections voted 2 to 1 last night to keep a controversial polling place in the Eastport Terrace-Harbor House community center, despite complaints that the public housing complex was too dangerous for voters.
There has never been a problem at the President Street polling place and moving the site would "disenfranchise the community," said board Chairman Richard E. Israel, who voted in favor of keeping the location.
"The essential point is that on Election Day, the board can assure the public that we can conduct a safe election and that voters can remain confident of their safety," Israel said to a small group of residents who attended the meeting to protest a move.
"It can't be ignored that there is a crime problem in the neighborhood," said Israel, citing a recent city Police Department report that labels the area a crime hot spot. "But I think the question before us concerns Election Day."
Israel said that complaints from some Eastport voters about the safety of the site led to an examination of the problem in January, when a routine review of all polling sites began for the fall elections.
The push to move the Ward 6 polling place came from its Republican alderman, Wayne Turner, who said the public housing site is "a high-crime area with a perception of danger that scares people." Turner said the polling place should be moved until the Annapolis Housing Authority "cleaned up its act."
The Ward 6 polling site was moved from Eastport United Methodist Church to the public housing complex four years ago.
Housing Authority Director Roger "Pip" Moyer said he was "extremely happy" about the board's decision.
"To my dying day, I will never see what the controversy was," Moyer said. "There's crime everywhere, but we've never had a problem on Election Day. There's no reason to change the polling place except for one reason, and I'll quote my favorite president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who said, 'There's nothing to fear, but fear itself.' "
Other critics of Turner's proposal to move the polling place to Spa Cove Apartments on Primrose Road said that location is too far and would discourage residents of the public housing community from voting.
Mayoral candidate Michael T. Brown, a vocal opponent of the move, accused Turner of "race baiting," and said efforts to move the polling place were "a blatantly racist effort designed to inflame racial tensions.
"As the alderman that represents the ward, he should be concentrating his efforts on reducing crime, not services to the black community," Brown said in a written statement issued before the meeting.
Turner said his motives were purely based on safety issues.
Pub Date: 6/05/97