INDIAN RIVER COUNTY-More than 7,000 voters in Vero Beach and Sebastian will be casting their ballots at different locations this fall, the Board of County Commissioners decided Tuesday.
Appointed Supervisor of Elections Leslie Swan requested the commission approve relocating two polling sites that serve four precincts, citing issues with school construction and accessibility. Nearly 3,400 registered voters in Precincts 408 and 504 will be moved from Vero Beach Elementary School to Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, located at 1590 27th Avenue.
Swan explained to commissioners that the School District has plans to build a new school campus on the site and then demolish the current one, making the school unavailable for voters.
In Sebastian, the two precincts that report to Sebastian Elementary School – 104 and 107 – would be moved to the American Legion Post 189, about a mile away.
The move would affect more than 3,700 registered voters.
Swan told commissioners that Sebastian Elementary School has issues with its parking and accessibility. She explained that voters would have to park at the front of the school and then walk to the back of the school where the polling site would be located, making it difficult for those with disabilities to get to.
Both Unitarian Universalist and the American Legion comply with ADA requirements, she told the commission.
The Board of County Commissioners unanimously supported the request to move the sites.
Commissioner Gary Wheeler offered another possible solution to finding sites – mobile voting centers, using construction trailers or portables.
“I think it could give you an edge,” he said of trying to better accommodate polling sites around the county as the county continues to grow.
Swan said that the trend in the Supervisor of Elections Office the last couple years has been to consolidate – not add – polling sites. Last year, the office went from 48 sites to 35.
Swan said she expects to cut five more.
More than 50 percent of the cast ballots in recent elections have come from early and absentee ballots, according to Swan – making the demand less for Election Day polling sites.
While at the County Commission meeting, Swan also asked if her office could work with the county’s Geographic Information System to help with redrawing precincts and representative districts.
“We’re doing everything possible to reduce our costs,” Swan said, explaining that it would be cheaper for her office to work with the county in-house to redraw and produce the maps than it would be to hire a consultant and farm out the work.
“It’s our taxpayers’ pockets,” Commissioner Wesley Davis said, expressing support of working together on the project.
County Administrator Joe Baird said that the two departments could work together with nominal expense to get the job done. He expects to bring back a dollar amount at a future meeting.
Davis recommended that, if the two were to work together, then the process would have to be as open and transparent as possible, allowing the public to provide input and scrutiny.
Commissioner Peter O’Bryan recommended holding public workshops for that purpose.
“The sooner we can get going on it, the better,” Swan said of working on the new maps.
Commissioners unanimously supported her request.