Feb 282013



Thursday, February 28, 2013

It is reasonable to see both sides of a recent City Council debate about where to locate early-voting stations for this year’s municipal election. While some members contended that adding a site close to East Carolina University might help increase participation, especially among youth voters, others claimed the push for an on-campus location attempts to influence the results.

By the very nature of their location, voting sites hold some sway over voter turnout in that their proximity to a subset of the electorate encourages its participation over those farther from the site. That is why the outcome of this debate, which saw the council vote unanimously to choose a central location for a new polling place, would seem to be the reasonable conclusion.

Prompted by an inquiry by Pitt County Elections Director Dave Davis, the council on Monday took up debate over early-voting sites for the city elections in November. The nonpartisan vote will determine the six members of the council as well as who serves as mayor, so those intending to seek re-election — and all those who call this community home — have a stake in the outcome.

In addition to the two sites now used annually for early voting, it was proposed by Councilman Max Joyner that an additional polling place be established on the East Carolina campus. Backed by Councilman Dennis Mitchell, the suggestion met the opposition of Councilwoman Marion Blackburn and Councilman Calvin Mercer. Blackburn worried that the station would affect turnout in her district, which includes the campus, while Mercer was wary of the council picking specific locations for voting sites, which he considered the responsibility of the Board of Elections.

Uncommonly, those are all reasonable positions to hold. Joyner and Mitchell are perfectly correct to desire greater participation in municipal elections, and wrapped themselves in that populist argument. Blackburn’s concern is well placed since, given traditionally low turnout for municipal elections, a handful of votes can turn the tide of a race. And Mercer is not wrong to think that the elections board, rather than the council, should be choosing locations based on accessibility and use.

The conclusion of a central location — the Drew Steele Center — near the campus, but without the parking problems and other legal complications, represents a rare bit of compromise from City Hall. And though the council may have reached it reluctantly, in this case, that may be what serves the public best.

via The Daily Reflector.


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