KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The Belle Morris voting site in North Knoxville will stay closed. The decision came Monday at a meeting of the Knox County Election Commission, and things got heated.
In March, commissioners moved the voting site to Larry Cox Senior Center. Some in the community, including several top Democrats, complained about the move by the Republican majority commission.
The election commission voted 3-2 to keep the location at Belle Morris Elementary School closed.
Former Knox County Commissioner Mark Harmon is angry that his polling location remains closed prior to the November election, despite community support to keep it open.
"The people of the community weren't consulted. They're very unhappy with the decision. All we got were more of the same excuses that don't hold up to close inspection," Harmon explained.
He says the decision was a political one, meant to hinder a Democratic candidate's chances in November.
"This is a Democratic leaning area with a hotly contested state House race. One of the candidates lives in the precinct that's being closed. It's the Democratic candidate who's being disadvantaged and you have to ask the question," Harmon said.
Knox County Administrator of Elections Cliff Rodgers says politics has nothing to do with the decision.
"My recommendation was based purely on a complaint that I got from a disabled voter. Politics had nothing to do with my recommendation," Rodgers explained.
The issue of the size and location of the polling place at the Larry Cox Senior Center was hotly contested as well.
"I watched the process in August. I was there for four hours and this tiny voting location, with inadequate parking, is going to get overwhelmed when three times as many people show up to vote in November," Harmon argued.
Rodgers says he expects to see a large voter turnout throughout Knox County. "There are going to be lines all over Knox County. And there would be lines at Belle Morris even if it were still there, so it's just a problem," he said.
The election commission agreed to hear public input about the polling location in January, and reconsider the closure at that time.
Rodgers also reminds people that early voting will help eliminate congestion at the polls on election day.