ELY – With the prospect of at least one and possibly two special election events to fill the soon-to-be vacant mayor’s seat in 2021, city council members last month decided that the …
ELY – With the prospect of at least one and possibly two special election events to fill the soon-to-be vacant mayor’s seat in 2021, city council members last month decided that the city’s lone voting location will remain at the Ely Senior Center for now.
Since the renovation of City Hall, council members have considered moving the voting location to council chambers, citing improved accessibility with the new elevator, and convenience for city staff.
A small but vocal constituency and supporters of the status quo continue to voice their opposition to moving voting day out of the Senior Center.
“I know a couple of handfuls were very vocal about it,” Mayor Chuck Novak said. “We pay attention to those who speak their voice. If there are those who are disappointed, they had the chance to speak out.”
The council voted 5-2 on the resolution to designate the 2021 polling place at the Senior Center at their last meeting of the year on Dec. 15.
Council member Heidi Omerza has voiced her support for moving the city’s polling place to City Hall, and voted against the resolution.
“I know I will lose yet again,” she said, and added that she received many emails supporting voting remain at the Senior Center. “One of the main reasons we told the citizens of Ely that we were going to be spending some of their tax dollars in City Hall was to make it ADA compliant and to turn this into a polling place so they could vote here.”
Omerza reminded council members that with the growing popularity of early voting and absentee voting, “a lot of voting happened here this year.” She asserted, “I’m going to continue that mission because we promised the taxpayers they would vote here.”
Novak noted that much money was spent to install the elevator in the city landmark.
“That was on the table and discussed at great length (during the renovation),” he said.
Council member Ryan Callen, who also voted against the resolution, suggested that 2021 could be a trial run for voting in City Hall.
“We’ve had a lot of discussion about this in the past and recently, and I think this coming year would be a good chance to just try it and see how it would work,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, we can continue to use the Senior Center.”
“The best time to try it would be in an off-year election and not in a presidential year,” he said.
Council member Angela Campbell pointed out that the City Hall elevator is used on a daily basis, indicating that the money was not wasted on the federal mandate to make public buildings accessible to everyone.
“I just prefer that (voting) stay at the Senior Center,” she said.
Council member Al Forsman suggested earlier last month that he was open to moving the city’s polling place, but decided to support the status quo. He noted the easier access and easier parking at the Senior Center compared to City Hall.
“The reason I was open (to the move) was that we had seen so much absentee voting,” he said. “I do still think the Senior Center works better for voters. We are still dealing with COVID and the layout (for social distancing) works better at the Senor Center.”
Council member Paul Kess agreed that voter access at the Senior Center is better than at City Hall, while noting that running the election in City Hall would be more efficient for city staff. “I’m in it for the voter,” he said.
Before the vote, Novak asked council members to “seriously consider” moving the vote to City Hall.
City of Ely voters will be voting for a new mayor in a special election on April 13. If more than two candidates vie for the city’s top job, that date would be a primary election and a general election would then be held on Aug. 10.