Change doesn’t always go over easy: Come May 2, many Buncombe County voters will find they must report to a new polling site. The Board of Elections has created seven new precincts, split off from existing ones in Asheville, Black Mountain, Riceville and Swannanoa, explains Director Trena Parker. And three existing precincts have new polling sites.
“[The changes] are based on growth: Whenever a precinct becomes larger than 2,500 registered voters, we look to create new precincts,” she says. Roughly half of the voters who, for years, have cast ballots at the North Asheville Community Center, for instance, will now go to the Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church, starting with the May 2 primary, Parker notes. “We’re splitting as many as we can now,” she continues. “By November, we don’t want any confusion [among voters].”
Making the shift isn’t exactly a breeze: Although the Board of Elections decided to make most of these changes last year, 1999 was a busier-than-usual voting season, Parker emphasizes. Besides the municipal races, there were Asheville’s special parks-and-recreation bond referendum, Buncombe’s zoning referendum and the school-bond referendum. “We had as much as we could handle,” Parker says. And, she adds, relocating existing polling sites and negotiating for new ones isn’t easy, either. The board can demand access to tax-supported facilities — such as schools, fire departments, community centers and libraries — but churches and private community centers must grant permission; and any potential site must be evaluated for its ability to sustain having thousands of voters come through its doors in one day, continues Parker. “How we split a precinct often depends on where we find a new location,” she observes.
As of Feb. 24, the new precincts include Malvern Hills Presbyterian (divided from Vance School), Ira B. Jones School (from Beaverdam Community Center), Covenant (listed above), New Hope Presbyterian (from Skyland United Methodist), Carver Community Center (from Lake Tomahawk), Grassy Branch Baptist (from the Riceville Fire Department), and Warren Wilson College/Kittredge Hall (from W.D. Williams Elementary). Voters moved to these new precincts will be notified soon about the change, Parker reports.
Existing precincts with new polling sites include New Bridge Baptist Church (Ira B. Jones Elementary), Beth Israel Synagogue (from the Unitarian Universalist Church), and Meadowbrook Free Will Baptist (from the Black Mountain Public Works Building).
For more info about these changes, contact the Board of Elections at 250-4200, or attend one of the various organizational precinct meetings which are tentatively scheduled for the evening of Tuesday, March 7 (March 14 is an alternate date).