By Lyndsie Kiebert
Bonner County commissioners voted to change the polling places for nine different precincts Aug. 24, with the change going into effect for the November 2021 election “and beyond,” according to Bonner County Chief Deputy Clerk Clorissa Koster.
Among the changes are a co-location of the Airport, Baldy, Beach, Dover, Humbird, Washington and Wrenco precincts to the Bonner County Fairgrounds; shifting Hope to the Clark Fork-Hope Area Senior Center to co-locate with the Clark Fork and Lakeview precincts; and moving Oldtown voters to the Priest River Events Center to co-locate with East and West Priest River.
Koster brought the proposal before the board at its regular Tuesday business meeting, sharing that some of the changes were due to previous polling facilities wanting to “get out of the business” — particularly a number of area churches that want to distance themselves from the partisanship of recent elections.
“The last election we had, with some of the political campaign signs, [things] like that,” said Bonner County Clerk Mike Rosedale. “[Churches have] said, ‘You know what, we just don’t want to do this anymore.’ … We’ve had three places at least that have said, ‘We’re done.’”
During public discussion, Bonner County resident Doug Paterson shared his concern that the changes were too “dramatic.”
“Part of the reason why precincts are set up in the first place is to have polling places close to the precinct itself,” he said. “It’s inside [the precinct], so people don’t have to travel a long ways to vote.”
Rosedale responded to Paterson’s concern by stating that the seven Sandpoint precincts being co-located at the fairgrounds were already “in a tight spot,” so voters would experience “nominal additional travel.” He also went on to describe the Hope and Oldtown changes as “nominal.” The distance between Oldtown’s previous polling place and the Priest River Events Center is approximately five miles. The distance between the Memorial Community Center, Hope’s previous polling location, and the Clark Fork-Hope Area Senior Center is more than nine miles.
Koster said that the changes are part of a larger movement by the elections office to make voting in Bonner County more “efficient,” and that voting should take the same amount of time under the new arrangements. Commissioner Dan McDonald stated that there’s also been increasing difficulty staffing volunteers on election days.
“There’s lots of things that go into this,” Koster said. “We’re not just wanting to move people just to move people.”
The board voted unanimously to approve the changes. Koster said the county will send out postcards to affected voters to notify them of their new polling place, as well as share the information on the county website and the Bonner County Elections Facebook page. The doors of previous polling places will also be posted with information letting voters know where to go.
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