Michael West received a large yellow card in the mail a few days ago. It’s about 6 inches by 11 inches, he estimates. And it says, in thick black type, that his polling place for next week’s primary is now twice as far from home as his last one.
West, who lives in the Audubon neighborhood, is among the Jefferson County residents who will have to travel a little further to cast their ballots for the gubernatorial primary and other races on May 21. He said less than two weeks’ notice is insufficient for people who need to arrange transportation or take time from work to find an unfamiliar polling place.
West said he was surprised by the change, the first in his more than five years living in his current home. Having to travel two miles to vote — when before the distance from home was less than a mile — could be too difficult for some people, he said.
“There’s some older folks in my neighborhood and some people that use public transportation and it’s not going to be as easy for them to vote,” he said.
West used to vote at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church on East Burnett Ave. His new polling place is Sojourn Church Midtown on South Shelby St. He would have preferred a month’s notice.
He said it feels “shady” that the polling place changed, and that so little notice was given. Others on social media have also expressed concern or surprise about the changes.
West said he was concerned that voter suppression might be at play, though he said he had no evidence for that, just a feeling.
“I kind of wonder if some of these polling locations are moving out of the neighborhood so fewer people will be able to vote,” he said.
Nore Ghibaudy is the spokesman for the Jefferson County Clerk’s office, which manages elections and polling places locally. He said the changes are not a voter suppression effort and called the concern “ridiculous.”
The changes this year were driven mostly by the facilities that have served as polling places in the past, Ghibaudy said. Some facilities have not renewed their leases with the county due to various issues including budget cuts and building renovations. And changes like these happen every year, he said.
“If someone was to go to their old precinct location, there will be a sign that will direct them to their new one, which of course would be in the same vicinity that they should be very familiar with,” Ghibaudy said.
Voters can also confirm their polling place by entering their address on the Jefferson County Clerk’s website.
More than 8,000 postcards detailing changes were sent to affected households the week of May 6, according to the County Clerk’s office.
Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on May 21. There are more than 603,000 registered voters in Jefferson County. Overall, there are 227 polling locations and 623 precincts in the county.
Six polling locations are changing, and will affect 17 precincts. The location changes are:
- Lyndon Christian Church did not renew its lease. Voters will instead go to Westport Middle School (1.8 miles away).
- St. Therese Catholic Church did not renew its lease due to budget cuts. Voters will instead go to Meyzeek Middle School (1 mile away).
- St. Elizabeth Catholic Church did not renew its lease due to budget cuts. Voters will instead go to Sojourn Church Midtown (1 mile away).
- Our Mothers of Sorrow did not renew its lease due to budget cuts. Voters will instead go to Male High School (2.7 miles away).
- Westport Early Childhood is undergoing renovations. Voters will instead go to Westport Middle School (2.2 miles away).
- First Baptist Church of Prospect did not want to host more than one precinct. Some voters will instead go to Harrods Creek Baptist Church (1.3 miles away).