Many voters frustrated over last-minute change in polling place

Short notice on Boise polling place changes

BOISE -- A last-minute change-up in polling places affects thousands of Boiseans, and has many of them frustrated.

Election Day is quickly approaching and, with just a few days to go, many voters in Boise were told they won't be voting where they normally do.

Thousands of voters in five precincts in Ada County received a letter in the mail this week from Ada County Elections notifying them that their polling locations had changed. But many of those individuals tell KTVB they were not happy about the changes.

MORE: Five Ada County polling locations changed

People who live in the area off Parkcenter Blvd along the Boise River are really affected by the change in polling places. They used to vote at an assisted living home off Parkcenter Blvd, but now they will have to drive out of their district and vote at the Ada County Indigent Services Office next to the county courthouse on Front Street.

"Polling places are going to change, that's a fact of life," said Boise resident in Precinct 1806, Jill Kuraitis. "It's just that this was handled so badly."

Ms. Kuraitis says the problem is not the change in location - per se - but the short notice of the change, and the fact that the information in the letter is outdated. She, and her neighbors, received the letter in the mail from Ada County Elections on November 3, the Thursday before the election.

One of their concerns is that the letter is dated October 14. Residents say some people even threw the mailer away because it appeared to be junk: it was addressed to them, or "current resident", and had a Non Profit Organization US Postage stamp.

"It says if it's inconvenient, you could do early voting or you can send for an absentee ballot."

But by the time a lot of voters saw the letter, it was too late to do either.

"It referenced absentee balloting even though already the deadline for the absentees has passed," Ada County Chief Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane told KTVB.

McGrane says anyone whose polling locations changed got a notification in the mail.

"We just finished processing voter registrations last week. And then once we had those registrations done, we sent notifications to all the new registered voters as well as the letters about polling locations moving," McGrane added.

Polling places in precincts 1602, 1711, 1806, 1810 and 1901 were changed. Elections officials say they will put up signs at all the former locations telling people where to go.

After a judicial audit of the polling locations was completed, McGrane says they needed to move two of them for accessibility for voters with disabilities. 

"We re-located those to more accessible voting locations," McGrane added.

Ada County Elections had to move two other polling places because the facilities told them they couldn't handle the volume. That is what happened in Precinct 1806, where voters used to cast their ballots at Brookdale Assisted Living (residents in Precinct 1805 will still vote at that facility).

"They informed us at the last minute, so we made a last minute change so that we could make sure we had a facility that could accommodate all voters for the high turnout we're expecting," McGrane told KTVB.

But an issue voters have now with their new polling place is that it is inconvenient for many of them, and it is not in their voting district.

Idaho State Senator Janie Ward-Engelking (D-Boise) is running unopposed in District 18. She says she is truly concerned about the fact that people will have to vote further away.

"We can do better than this," the senator said. "I think it's a real hardship for our elderly voters because they'll have to drive downtown and find a place to park."

Both she and Ms. Kuraitis say they fear this change-up will discourage or prevent some people from exercising their right to vote.

"There's certainly no intention to suppress the vote, but in fact it is voter suppression whether it's accidental or intentional," Kuraitis said.

"They're just going to say it's not worth it," Ward-Engelking added. "So that's an issue."

For information on finding out where to vote, and what you need to know to register at the polls, click here

Copyright 2016 KTVB


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