The Middlesex County Board of Elections held an emergency meeting yesterday to further discuss plans to closing 6 of the 14 polling locations for the New Brunswick School Board elections being held on April 20.
At the meeting, the Board announced that after further investigation, they will be keeping 2 of the polling locations open — the New Brunswick Housing Authority office and the Roosevelt Elementary School — out of the 6 that were initially going to be closed. The addition of these two locations makes for 10 polling locations in total.
The emergency meeting came after a Board meeting last Thursday, where many community members spoke out against the decision to shut down the six polling locations, citing concerns of voter suppression. Due to the public’s strong response regarding the plans, the Board ultimately decided to look into their decision further.
The “Students First” candidates, who are running in the upcoming school board elections, were among some of the individuals who advocated against the Board’s plans at the meeting. They have previously called upon the Board as well as the New Brunswick City clerk to reconsider these plans given the negative impact they could have on the community and the elections, The Daily Targum previously reported.
At yesterday’s emergency meeting, several community members continued to voice concerns regarding the plans, despite the addition of the polling locations.
Charlie Kratovil, editor of New Brunswick Today, said that while he was pleased to see two more polling sites added back, he was still disappointed to see that the other four were not. He questioned why these locations, specifically the New Brunswick Senior Citizen Resource Center (NBSCRC) and the Labor Education Center, given their public status, were not approved.
The Board stated that the NBSCRC was not able to be restored as a location at this time primarily due to the fact that multiple public services, including Meals on Wheels and coronavirus disease (COVID-19) related efforts, are currently being run out of the facility.
Linda Stork, a New Brunswick resident and a member of the “Students First” platform, was another speaker at the meeting. She said that she usually votes at the NBSCRC and has done so at the same time as public services being run out of there. Additionally, she stated that in the past they were able to be socially distanced at the facility without trying.
The Board reaffirmed that the space typically used for polling at the NBSCRC was not available due to the presence of public services, as well as storage.
Stork also followed up about the Labor Education Center location. The Board stated they reached out to the University about this polling location, but were ultimately unable to approve the space due to time constraints given the proximity to the elections.
Other locations were not approved for reasons including not being able to get in contact with representatives from the locations, not being able to inspect the locations, the locations not being large enough to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines and overall lack of time before the elections.
Ultimately, while all Board members agreed on the addition of the two polling locations, one commissioner stated that they should try to ask clerks to review locations as soon as possible going forward to avoid these issues from occurring in the future, especially with additional elections on the horizon.