Burleigh County voters could get to choose where they vote, but there wouldn’t be many polling sites available. The county commission is considering the use of seven polling sites instead of 24.
Burleigh County Auditor Kevin Glatt argues that 24 sites are too many. Thirty-five percent of the ballots in the county are cast before Election Day. Along with fewer polling sites, the county would allow voters to go to any of them. Each would have ballots for the different districts.
The Wilton, Wing, Sterling and Menoken polling sites would remain open for rural residents.
While the arguments for change seem attractive, the Tribune Editorial Board doesn’t believe fewer and bigger polling sites would be better. In fact it could be an effort to cut costs that could result in longer lines and parking difficulties. If the polling sites don’t have enough voting machines there could be long waits to cast ballots. There also would need to be more volunteers at the sites.
If you live in north Bismarck and work in south Bismarck there might be voting sites close to home or work. With just seven available voting sites it’s also likely there might not be a site close to either. The convenience offered by seven sites seems too good to be true. Some people might not care to vote at a large site fearing the loss of contact with poll workers and difficulties posed by bad weather.
Having fewer polling sites also could result in a lower turnout during special elections with voters wanting to avoid long lines.
Potential voting sites mentioned are the Event Center, Evangel Assembly of God Church and the Burleigh County 4-H Building. The Tribune Editorial Board questions whether there would be enough parking at the 4-H building. However, there should be other places available.
Many people vote before Election Day to avoid crowds, because they fear bad weather or they may have a trip planned. They like the convenience of early voting options.
Unfortunately, too many people don’t cast ballots. Fewer polling sites could contribute to low turnouts as people avoid what they fear will be busy places.
Local legislators who appeared at Wednesday night’s commission meeting didn’t like the idea of fewer polling sites. They are worried about the lack of parking and long lines. Rep. George Keiser, R-Bismarck, argued that schools should continue to be used as polling sites. He said voting at schools demonstrates the importance of voting to the students. It also provides a lesson on how government works.
Some also worry that open voting will result in people no longer identifying with their district.
If the county reduces the polling sites to save on costs that would be a mistake. If they try to operate with an insufficient number of machines and volunteers there will be long lines. Making sure a voter gets the ballot for the right district also could take time.
The commission didn’t take any action last week and more discussions will be needed. The Tribune believes the present system works well. Voting is one of the most important things that citizens do. We shouldn’t do it on the cheap and we should make it as easy as possible. Being able to vote in a speedy manner in your district is the best way.
The Burleigh County Commission shouldn’t change where we vote.