OCEAN PINES — The polling location in Ocean Pines for next year’s Presidential Election has likely found a new location, though not in a different district as some feared.
The Worcester County Board of Elections confirmed this week that the agency is considering moving the polling location from the Ocean Pines Fire Station to the nearby country club. However, the club might go through renovations in the near future, so nothing is set in stone as of yet.
“That [the move] is pending action from the Ocean Pines Association (OPA),” said Elections Board Supervisor Patti Jackson.
She explained that the OPA will rule on whether renovations might disrupt polling. Jackson expects an answer by next week. If the association doesn’t feel there will be interference, the move will then be finalized.
County Commissioner Judy Boggs, who represents the Ocean Pines area, has reservations about the move. Boggs has been a vocal advocate for keeping the fire station as a polling location.
“People are creatures of habit,” she said, referring to the fact the station has hosted polling for 12 years.
Besides tradition, Boggs had other issues with using the country club. She said the main parking lot is far enough from the building to present a possible deterrent to the elderly or disabled. Additionally, she said the club’s elevator is not capable of lifting more than one wheelchair at a time.
“I hope that it will be adequate,” she said of the elevator.
With the change, Boggs feared that Ocean Pines voter turnout, which at 75 percent last election was one of the highest in the county, might taper off because residents find the move inconvenient.
Jackson didn’t predict any such problems.
“We tried to consider voters in the decision,” she said.
Jackson pointed out that the club is within a mile or so of the fire station and still in voting District 5, unlike the Ocean Pines Community Church, which had been another possible choice for relocation. Neither did Jackson share Boggs worry that the club would be less accommodating to the mobility impaired. The board has used the building before, said Jackson.
“We had no problems,” she said.
Having the polls at the country club will also allow the board to set up for voting the night before, as opposed to the fire station, which due to emergency and vehicle issues couldn’t allow elections officials in until early morning. Having to get everything in place in one morning forced the board to scramble and rush, said Jackson. Not ideal conditions for monitoring voting, she said.
Jackson listed other reasons for the change of venue, including safety problems, issues with the station’s parking lot, and the fact that representatives of the Ocean Pines Volunteer Fire Department (OPVFD) commented on how inconvenient hosting polling was.
Boggs didn’t see the early morning set-up as much of an obstacle, however. She also disagreed with the reasons for leaving the station.
“I have never once heard a complaint from anyone who voted at the firehouse,” she said.
As for polling being an inconvenience to the firefighters, Boggs admitted that they did view it that way. However, she added that anyone who hosted a polling location probably felt the same way.
“It’s inconvenient, it’s disruptive,” she said.
But Boggs claimed the OPVFD had done its duty to the community for over a decade as hosts and were more than willing to continue doing so. She thanked the department for being “so accommodating over the years” and added that it was “a shame this issue had to become so contentious.”