Polling changes are successful for primariesThe voting center system Stark County adopted for this year’s election was a success by County Auditor Alice Schulz’s estimation.
By: Ashley Martin, The Dickinson Press
DICKINSON - The voting center system Stark County adopted for this year’s election was a success by County Auditor Alice Schulz’s estimation.
“I thought it went excellent,” Schulz said. “When I’d go around the polls, I’d get the thumbs up wherever I went, so that was a good sign.”
She only encountered one voter who was unhappy with the new format.
“Everybody else sure seemed to like it,” Schulz said. “All the good reports I got back said that people thought it was great to be able to go where they wanted.”
Schulz said many voters disliked the old precinct system.
“I think a lot of my complaints from people were that they didn’t know where to vote and they felt that every time we had an election they were sent to a different place,” Schulz said. “So many people are buying and selling houses and moving into different places and they’ve got to learn all over again where they have to go.”
Schulz said voting centers were implemented this year because, until recently, it was not possible for these changes to take place.
“The law only changed during the last Legislature to even allow us to do this,” Schulz said.
Now that the voting system has been changed, anybody can vote at any voting center in Stark County.
“This way…it’s taking away that question in their mind of where to go,” Schulz said. “The convenience of it all, I think is great.”
Not only is the new format more convenient for most voters, it also requires fewer people to work at the polls. Schulz said while about 75 individuals were hired to help with the polls during the last election, she hired just over half that many for this year’s primaries. She expects to need even less help in the future.
“This time…I had extra workers because I didn’t know for sure what I’d need,” Schulz said.
Fewer workers at the polls translates into fewer tax dollars spent for their wages.
Although fewer people worked the polls compared to years past, the new procedures may make the entire process faster.
“Once the poll workers have the hang of it, that also will go quicker,” Schulz said.
Part of the reason Schulz hired fewer people is because there are fewer voting locations.
“I was trying to cut back on some of the places because everything costs,” Schulz said.
Taylor, Gladstone and South Heart had their voting locations closed, while Richardton, Belfield and Dickinson had voting centers.
“By putting one on each end of the county…it was kind of covering the whole county, having three in the middle,” Schulz said.
She added some voters did not want to lose polling locations that were close to home.
“I know that the concerns for taking away these small city precincts…were for the elderly,” Schulz said.
She said some people were concerned about traveling farther to vote.
“I don’t like to keep anybody from voting,” Schulz said. “I felt like everybody comes to Dickinson at one point.”
She added absentee voting is another option for individuals who do not come to Dickinson or other voting centers on a regular basis.
“It ends up being five to six weeks before elections that absentees are available,” Schulz said. “They can do that in their homes…at their leisure time. They don’t even have to leave the house.”
Voters were also able to vote prior to June 10, thanks to the early voting system.
The voting center system also is to be used for the general elections this fall and Schulz hopes the same system can be carried out from now on.
“I would like to continue it,” Schulz said. “I just don’t see it going back the way it used to be…most people were happy.”
She expects more positive feedback during the general elections when the new format is more familiar to the area.
“I think, being the first time, a lot of people didn’t know that they could (choose where to vote) so they still were going to the same place they’ve always gone,” Schulz said. “I think by fall, you know, a lot of people will be more used to it and hopefully will just go wherever they want to go.”
She added more advertising may be necessary before the general elections to remind people of the changes in procedure.
“Some of them felt there wasn’t enough advertising,” Schulz said of the change for the primary elections.
She would like to get the information about voting centers out to voters earlier to help ease some confusion. Other than that, Schulz said there shouldn’t be anymore changes to the procedures.
“I am pleased with it. I think it went well,” Schulz said.