NOTE: Our friends and colleagues at the Pew Center on the States have launched a new monthly newsletter that summarizes the latest work and research of the Election Initiatives team. You can see the inaugural issue here, which highlights Pew’s work on voter registration and looks back at recent Election Data Dispatches focusing on provisional ballots and the cost of elections. You can subscribe at the bottom of the page to get this information monthly. Check it out! – Doug Chapin, Director
Polling Place Profile
Voting is not an emergency at this Richmond, Va. polling place
The last thing that most elections workers want to hear is that there is an ambulance outside their polling place, but that’s just part of doing business at a polling place in Richmond, Va.
Prior to 2004 a neighborhood school served as the polling location, but during an ADA compliance check, it was discovered that the school was not ADA compliant so a new polling place had to be found.
“We looked for other locations, but this is a particularly small precinct geographically as it is in a densely populated urban area,” explained Kirk Showalter, general registrar for the City of Richmond. “We could not find another equally suitable location in the precinct that met election and ADA requirements.”
So Showalter approached the hospital about a possible partnership.
“They had some questions about logistics at first, but were very interested in working with us because they were trying to establish themselves as a neighborhood hospital,” said Showalter. “The hospital is located in the middle of a densely populated urban area and is within easy walking distance of most people in the precinct. They recognized the public relations value of being closely tied to the neighborhood by serving as a polling place.”
The polling place serves about 2,300 voters. Showalter said that the registrar’s office pays a $75 fee to the hospital for the use of the conference room, but that was voluntary on their part, the hospital did not require it.
Showalter said that some of the issues that arise at other hospitals — poor cell service, showing an ID to enter, needing to sign in — are not issues at Retreat Hospital.
The city has a dedicated land line in the conference room that they pay for that Showalter can use to communicate directly with her elections staff and voters may come and go to the polling place unencumbered by security measures.
According to Showalter, the benefits of having a polling place in a hospital include ADA compliance, ample parking and 24-hour access. Showalter noted that poll workers really seem to enjoy working in the hospital polling place because there is easy access to the facility’s cafeteria.
As far as she can tell Showalter said that she hasn’t seen any disadvantages to having a polling place located in a hospital.
electionlineWeekly is taking an occasional look at unique polling places throughout the country. Can you see Russia from your polling place? Does your polling place share space with cake mixes and frozen dinners? If you’ve got a unique location for a polling place, please let us know!