Polling place change unwelcome among some Carroll residents

For some county residents affected by polling place relocations announced by the county Board of Elections earlier this week, the change could more than quadruple the distance needed to travel to vote.

Under changes unveiled Monday, voters currently assigned to polling places at the three county schools slated for closure at the end of the month — Charles Carroll Elementary, New Windsor Middle and North Carroll High — will be sent to a new polling place for November's general election.


For New Windsor and North Carroll voters, the new polling sites will be within just a few miles, at most, of the old sites.

Residents in Election District 3, Precinct 1, who currently vote at Charles Carroll Elementary School, will be relocated to Ebb Valley Elementary School in Manchester, for November's election.


The two sites are about 11 miles apart and take nearly 20 minutes to drive between.

Commissioner Stephen Wantz, who represents the area, said he has been fielding comments from concerned community members since the changes were announced.

"I'm troubled by the decision that was made as an alternative for the Charles Carroll folks," said Wantz, R-District 1.

Carroll County Elections Director Katherine Berry said the Board of Elections will be discussing the new sites and community reaction at its regularly scheduled meeting next week, on Wednesday, June 15. Until then, Berry said, she will be keeping her comments on the subject limited.

"The board is made up of a bipartisan group of individuals, and it was a unanimous vote by the board," Berry said. "It was a difficult decision."

Wantz said he had hoped the board would reassign the voters to Pleasant Valley Community Fire Company, where he has worked as a volunteer.

The fire house sits about 5 miles from Charles Carroll Elementary, or about a 10-minute drive.

With a longer distance to travel to reach the polls, Wantz said he worried the change could discourage area residents from voting.

Erin Sipes, who said she lives just a couple minutes from Charles Carroll, said the change won't stop her from voting, but it will change how she casts her ballot.

Rather than drive the half hour she said it would take her to travel from her home to Ebb Valley, Sipes said she plans to participate in early voting this November at the Westminster Senior Activities Center, and she expects others to find alternate ways to vote as well.

When she heard about the change in polling place, Sipes said she was immediately disheartened.

"I [think] it was totally ridiculous that we have to drive an extra half hour when our polling place is two minutes from my house," she said. "It's a big inconvenience for all of us."


Sipes is a participant in an appeal to the county school board's decision to close Charles Carroll at the end of the school year. Hearing that she would now have to travel to Ebb Valley to cast her ballot, she said, was an added frustration.

"Once again, our community is neglected and ignored," she said. "That's how we feel."

A Monday release from the Board of Elections announcing the changes said that polling locations could be re-evaluated in the future if the three school buildings remain available for community use.

Currently, the future of the buildings is uncertain. On July 1, Carroll County Public Schools is scheduled to hand of possession of Charles Carroll and North Carroll to the county, where some county commissioners have expressed a desire to keep the facilities available for use by the community. New Windsor, which has been discussed as a possible future home CCPS Central Office, will stay in the hands of the school system.



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