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The precinct plan deserves a fair hearing
Roanoke voters should be ready now to discuss a precinct plan with the aim of making voting easier.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Roanoke voters were tired, sore and angry following November’s presidential election, when precincts were short on equipment and long on lines. They were in no mood to tolerate a change that would have reduced the number of voting precincts in the city from 32 to 19.
It wasn’t that the Roanoke Electoral Board offered an ill-conceived proposal. Much time and thought went into designing the precinct realignment plan, the first overhaul undertaken since 1967.
Or that the board was springing it on an unsuspecting public. Public meetings were held. But people seldom pay close attention to government until they feel the pinch. And a whole lot of shoes had pinched that Election Day.
So when the plan came before Roanoke City Council soon after, it didn’t stand a chance of passing amid the flurry of election-related complaints. Though it seems counterintuitive, most of those complaints would be addressed through consolidation, as more manpower and machines would be allocated for each precinct. And the city could be more selective in finding polling places with space enough to shelter people waiting in line so that they are not standing in the rain, possibly provide chairs for those who cannot stand long, welcome the handicapped and make the experience more pleasant for all.
Voters, though, were not ready to hear any of that immediately after the election, so city council formed an Elections Precincts Task Force that includes members representing minorities and the disabled, both political parties and neighborhood advocates — all groups with a keen interest in making voting more accessible. The task force is now ready to explain the plan and hear what voters have to say, and two public hearings have been scheduled in council chambers. They will take place March 28 and April 9, both starting at 7 p.m.
Suggestions made at these hearings will help to guide the task force when it later makes recommendations to council. It’s an opportunity to develop a plan that will work best for Roanoke voters, but first they must turn out to be heard.
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