County to consider polling place change

Shenandoah County might move the Toms Brook-area polling place and split the precinct.

General Registrar Lisa McDonald and Electoral Board Chairwoman W. Joyce Gary spoke to the Board of Supervisors about the proposal at a work session Thursday.

The county closed the voting locations in Signal Knob and Mt. Olive and consolidated the precinct after redistricting in 2012. The county moved the polling site from the Toms Brook United Methodist Church to the Toms Brook Volunteer Fire Department across the street to accommodate more voters even though the building did not meet Americans With Disability Act requirements, but plans called for renovations in the future.

“The fire department is just not working — that’s the bottom line on it,” Gary said. “When the move was made there was supposed to have been some renovations made to the fire department because it was not ADA-compliant in many, many ways.

“But, according to the evaluation and the other information in the file, those were going to be corrected,” Gary added. “Well, they haven’t been corrected and actually there’s no way to correct them and we’ve done what we can with it.”

McDonald and the Electoral Board compiled a list of options that include moving the Toms Brook polling place to the church, as well as to split the precinct and reopen Mt. Olive as a voting site.

The county could face large fines if it leaves the polling site at the department building, Gary warned.

County Administrator Mary Beth Price explained that the Board of Supervisors would need to schedule a public hearing on any proposal to move the polling site. Price said she has already notified the fire department that the county would no longer use the station as a polling place in November.

Supervisor Marsha Shruntz, whose district includes the area around Toms Brook and the precinct, said she would support moving the polling place to the church.

Toms Brook Mayor Phil Fauber told the board that during most elections people park in the St. Peter Lutheran Church and cross U.S. 11 to go to the fire station to vote.

In the early 2000s, the Electoral Board and the county made improvements to the church with funding through the Help America Vote Act, according to information from McDonald. But the church also poses some challenges, Gary noted. The church likely would not provide enough space and this could lead to long lines for voters, she said.

The Electoral Board moved the polling location to the fire station in anticipation of an increase in the number of voters. The number of voters in the consolidated precinct increased by 75 percent, McDonald told supervisors.

“So we want to make sure, if we’re going back [to the church], the room can accommodate the number of voters,” McDonald said.

The county has 2,789 registered voters in the Toms Brook precinct, 177 of them live in town limits, McDonald said. The registrar has explained that best practices in managing elections calls for splitting a precinct when the number of voters becomes too large for one facility.

The Electoral Board will ask supervisors to allow it to move the voting site to the church with the caveat that the county also will split the precinct, Gary said. Where voters in the new precinct would vote remains undetermined. The Electoral Board has looked at churches in Mt. Olive and Round Hill, Gary said. Price warned that her budget doesn’t include the extra funds needed to staff and equip a new precinct. The number of people needed to work the polls would depend on turnout, Gary noted.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com