December 11, 2013
Polling site will return to SUNY campus
Cortland, SUNY Cortland and election board officials Tuesday all agreed that moving a relocated polling site back to campus is the right move, while at the same time trying to combat a growing voter apathy among students.
The officials agreed that switching the recently moved 5th Ward polling site back to campus should be attempted to make voting more convenient for students.
The County, City, Towns, Villages and Schools Committee met Tuesday to discuss the problems that arose from the move to switch the 5th Ward polling place from Park Center on campus to Christ Church on Tompkins Street, shortly before the November general elections.
The switch to a site about a mile out of the district was criticized by city officials at the time for being done without their consultation and for perhaps deterring student voters.
Democratic Election Commissioner Tom Brown said Tuesday the switch was just a temporary fix to a unique problem. He and Republican Election Commissioner Bob Howe said the Park Center location yielded many voter complaints about lack of access and chaotic parking, prompting the site to be moved on short notice.
But Brown said he agrees an ideal spot for the site would be back on campus.
He mentioned possibly the new student life center or relocating it in Park Center if problems can be alleviated there.
“If being on campus creates a better atmosphere, an incentive to students to vote, I’m all for that,” Brown said after the meeting.
City Mayor Brian Tobin thought other incentives such as refreshments and cookies would be a good idea to lure students to vote. Tobin was pleased that the election commissioners at the meeting conceded they should have reached out to the city Common Council for feedback before moving the site, something Brown said the board should have done. Tobin advocated for a site that is convenient for students and within walking distance for them.
Jessica Johnnes, project coordinator for the SUNY Cortland chapter of the New York Public Interest Research Group, said it is essential the site be moved back on campus, whether at Park Center or another location.
She said she was happy to hear that the move off site was only a temporary solution.
Both Johnnes and legislator-elect for the 7th Legislative District, Raylynn Knolls, agreed the accessibility offered to students by buses on campus plays an important role in their being able to fit in a time to vote while juggling busy schedules.
“Even if the polling site is farther, students will still have more access than if it is close but off campus,” Johnnes said.
Knolls thought the former location in Corey Union was good for students but Brown said that carried parking problems for the public.
Republican Election Commissioner Bob Howe raised the question to Tobin of whether the city would realign its ward boundaries to align with the county legislative districts, something the city decided against doing when the county’s legislative redistricting forced the issue. Tobin urged Howe to attend council meetings and hear the council’s reasons for not aligning its boundaries to match the Legislative districts.
Tobin said the council’s decision not to align its boundaries with the county was made after examining what was best for the city overall, not just for election time.
SUNY Cortland counselor in the educational opportunities program, Marc Dearstyne, said the college tries to impress upon students the importance of voting.
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