Two elementary schools were directly impacted by a massive tornado in the Oklahoma City area on Monday. It brings to mind a storm from a 1996 tornado which destroyed the Allardt Elementary School in Fentress County.More >>
Two elementary schools were directly impacted by a massive tornado in the Oklahoma City area on Monday. It brings to mind a storm from a 1996 tornado which destroyed the Allardt Elementary School in Fentress County. More >>
KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The chair of Knox County's Democratic Party denounced Tuesday an election commission decision to move a polling location.
Knox County Election Commission members voted in March to move the polling location for the 16th Precinct.
Commission members say the move was made because of a complaint that the old location, Belle Morris Elementary School at 2308 Washington Pike, wasn't accessible to individuals with disabilities.
The new polling place is the Larry Cox Senior Center, 3109 Ocoee Trail. The locations are less than a mile apart.
Many voters in the 16th Precinct say they didn't have any idea the change was coming until they received their voter cards in the mail just last week.
Democratic Party Chair Gloria Johnson said she wasn't aware of the change until contacted by voters.
Johnson is the only Democratic candidate seeking State House Rep. Harry Tindell's 13th District seat.
Johnson stood at the Belle Morris Elementary School's wheelchair ramp Tuesday morning tell reporters she is not happy about the polling change.
"What we have is a bunch of people who are very upset that they weren't involved any decision like this and weren't aware of a decision," Johnson said. "They just feel like they let the community out of this decision."
Knox County Election Commission Chairman Chris Heagerty says the vote to switch the location to was to ward off any legal action.
"One complaint is enough to get you a lawsuit, if you ignore it," said Heagerty.
The complaint came despite the fact that Belle Morris is ADA compliant.
A former poll worker said he had never seen issues there before.
"The doors are marked handicap accessible," said Steve Eldrdge, president of the North Hills Area Association. "[Voters] come in and go down the hall."
The senior center has easier access for those in wheelchairs, according to the election commission.
"If you lived in that community for a good amount of time, and I live near it, it's pretty easy to get around," said Heagerty.
Johnson said she is worried about parking at the new polling location. She said the senior center does not have enough parking to accommodate a large number of voters.
She added the last-minute change will only result in confusion and voter suppression.
Johnson said the 16th Precinct has a significant amount of Democratic voters.
"The reality is in the precinct, it's going to be more Democratic than Republican voters, but it will disenfranchise voters, particularly seniors," Johnson said.
"There are ways to get them there," said Heagerty. "If they can't get to the polling place, we can send them a ballot. This won't disenfranchise anybody."
A change in the Tennessee law allows voters 60 years of age or older to vote absentee by mail for any reason. The deadline to request an absentee ballot for the August election is July 26.
Knox County Election Administrator Cliff Rogers says it is too late to change this site for the current election.
There are 4,780 registered voters in this precinct, Rogers says.
In the 2010 County General and State Primary Election, 250 ballots were cast in the 16th Precinct.
In the 2008 State Primary and County General Election, 334 ballots were cast.