CLEARWATER — After some community confusion, the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office has decided to place a North Greenwood community's polling place at the city's North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatics Center.
Registered voters in Precinct 526, which covers much of North Greenwood, were accustomed to casting their ballots at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center at 1201 Douglas Ave. But once the city decided to close that facility, the polling place had to be moved.
During the last municipal election, Precinct 526 voters were moved to the Clearwater Shuffleboard Club at 1020 Calumet St.
That led to the confusion.
"A lot of people didn't know that Calumet Street stopped and started in two places," said Alma Bridges, president of the Upper Pinellas branch of the NAACP. "When they saw Calumet Street, they were thinking that it was up near N Hercules Avenue and not a place they could walk to. They didn't know that a short piece of the street started and stopped right off Edgewater Drive. There was some confusion."
According to the Supervisor of Elections Office, 904 Precinct 526 voters cast ballots in the 2010 general election and only 303 in the January 2012 election.
Bridges asked elections officials to move the polling place to prevent future confusion.
In an April 17 letter to Bridges, Julie Marcus, the deputy supervisor of elections, said Precinct 526 voters will use the aquatics center at 900 N Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. for both the Aug. 14 primary and the Nov. 6 general election this year. The center is a prominent facility in the heart of North Greenwood.
Recent redistricting may move some voters, but the bulk of them will remain in Precinct 526. There could be a change in the precinct number.
"We are happy to accommodate a request like this whenever we can," said Nancy Whitlock of the elections office. "We try to take into consideration community input on things like this. We also try to leave (a polling place) in the same location unless there is a reason it needs to be changed."
Bridges said it's a relief to know that the polling place will be at a location that is accessible by foot.
"Now, for voters who don't have transportation, they can walk there," Bridges said. "Hopefully, this will settle things out for the upcoming election and future elections."