Voting site removal roils North Little Rock; Rose City group rips county’s choice of single location

"I Voted" stickers sit on a table, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, at the Cambridge City Hall annex, on the first morning of early voting in Massachusetts. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
"I Voted" stickers sit on a table, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, at the Cambridge City Hall annex, on the first morning of early voting in Massachusetts. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

What was a convenient trip to the ballot box for many voters who live on North Little Rock's east side will now become a much longer journey to cast their vote.

On Feb. 25, the Pulaski County Board of Election Commissioners voted to eliminate 15 polling locations across the county. The change included removing the polling site at North Little Rock's Glenview Community Center, which served as a convenient place to vote for many on the city's east side.

Now residents who live on the east side of the city will have to travel farther to the Sherman Park Community Center to vote. City and community officials have criticized the move, saying it will depress voter turnout in parts of North Little Rock.

The Rose City Neighborhood Association posted a message on its Facebook page encouraging residents to contact the Pulaski County Election Commission to "let them know we need our voting precinct back."

North Little Rock Mayor Terry Hartwick and Ward 2 Councilmember Linda Robinson, who represents the city's east side, are lobbying the Election Commission to reconsider.

"Yeah, we're getting the short end of the stick," Robinson said. "And you know, it doesn't look right, it doesn't feel right."

The Glenview Community Center, located on East 19th Street, is accessible for many as it closer and has a bus stop. The Sherman Park Community, located about one mile from City Hall, does not have a bus stop.

"They don't own cars. And there's no bus service. There's no bus service, really in Rose City," Robinson said.

Melinda Lemons, director of elections for Pulaski County, said the change was made as part of a recent analysis staff did that showed there were two polling sites located in one precinct. Typically, a precinct is attached to one polling site, but both the Sherman Park and Glenview communities were located within the same precinct.

"Basically they are both in the same location and they had to select one," Lemons said.

The Board of Election Commissioners unanimously approved the changes, which included an order that reduced the number of voting sites in the county from 104 to 89.

Hartwick said he wrote a letter to the election commission asking for them to reconsider while Robinson said she spoke directly with Lemons. Lemons said the polling sites are locked in for the May 24 primary election but could be changed after.

"For this particular area where people sometimes have to ride the bus to go to work, this is putting them at an unfair advantage," Hartwick said.

For those who do drive, the Sherman Park polling location could also be an issue, Robinson and Hartwick said the site has a smaller parking lot than the one in Glenview and no nearby on-street parking.

"Sherman Park does not have near the capacity of onsite parking," Robinson said. "There are a couple of private businesses [nearby], but is it fair to those private businesses for their customers to have to compete for parking on Election Day?"

The lack of residents with cars has driven a recent policy decision in North Little Rock as the city eyes a spot for a health center in Rose City. Mayor Terry Hartwick and Council members Maurice Taylor and Robinson, who represent the area, said residents of the area often have to take a long bus ride to Baptist Health for care.

Both Hartwick and Robinson said they were unaware the Board of Election Commissioners planned to eliminate some voting sites ahead of the primary election, saying they wish the commission had contacted them before.

Early voting is still an option in North Little Rock with William F. Laman Public Library on Orange Street serving as the lone site in the city.

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