Early voters in Sherwood will cast their ballot in a new location starting Monday, as the city's only early voting site is being moved two blocks away, the Pulaski County Election Commission announced.
Relocation of the former, longtime voting site at the Jack Evans Senior Citizens Center, 2301 Thornhill Drive -- part of the city government complex -- to First Christian Church, 2803 E. Kiehl Ave., has drawn complaints, even from Sherwood Mayor Virginia Young, who said Friday the city wasn't consulted before the commission's decision.
Early voting for the Nov. 6 general election will last for two weeks. Voting hours at the Sherwood location and all off-site locations in Pulaski County will be 10 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays.
The Election Commission approved the decision at its June 29 meeting, according to meeting minutes, but hadn't issued a news release about the change until Thursday afternoon.
The First Christian Church location will be "more prominent and accessible," providing a larger voting area with additional voting machines and better parking that will be "fully available" on early voting days, according to the commission's news release. Parking at the senior center is shared with several additional facilities, the release noted.
Bryan Poe, the county's elections director, said Friday that the move of the polling site is being done "on sort of a trial basis."
"Overall, this is something we've been looking at for a while and we're trying to get better and more sites," Poe said, adding that early voting locations in southwest and west Little Rock were also considered for relocation but "this is the only one that panned out."
"More than anything, it's about the location," Poe said. "By being on Kiehl Avenue, there's a lot more traffic that goes down Kiehl, so we feel it will draw in more early voters."
Having the early voting site directly off of Kiehl Avenue, a main thoroughfare in Sherwood, is part of the problem with the move, Young said. The senior center location has been used for early voting for 16 years, according to an email between officials.
"I've had some real concerns with it," Young said. "There are two ingresses and egresses out of the senior center location and both are protected by traffic signals. There is also an exit out of the south side of the facility. The new location isn't protected. You have to enter off of Kiehl Avenue and you have to exit off of Kiehl Avenue."
Young appealed the decision at the commission's Aug. 20 meeting "without success," she said. The first she said she knew of the possibility of a change was this summer.
"My frustration, and I expressed this to the commission, is we were notified of it after it had been decided to be changed," Young said.
"Some of our seniors are not happy about it because [voting at the center] is very convenient to them," she said. "They're over there anyway, so they vote while they're there. But it's not just senior citizens. Everybody knows that's the place to early vote. I cannot remember when it was not the early voting location for Sherwood. It's going to confuse people."
Young also said that the senior center, because of other buildings around it, has more parking spaces and more handicapped spaces than does the church parking lot, contrary to the commission's stated reasons. The church has 87 parking spaces and five handicapped spaces, while the senior center has 128 spaces with 19 handicapped spots, according to a city official's count.
Poe noted that the new site is only two blocks from the previous site and has more room for voting. Normally five machines would be used at the senior center, Poe said, while the church will have "at least seven, with more on standby, if needed."
"There is more room for us to add machines, which will get people through early voting quicker," Poe said. "With more room and more parking, hopefully it will reduce the wait time for early voting. Early voting has become very popular over the past few years. We want to have voters not have to wait 20 minutes in line and we want to have more space where we have more machines."
Metro on 10/20/2018