NEW ORLEANS — Prior to Hurricane Katrina, there were 39 polling places in Orleans Parish located in private homes. Today, there are just three.
Ninth Ward resident Fannie Hull said her Louisa Street home welcomed voters for many years prior to the storm that devastated her neighborhood. This year, for the first time since Katrina, Hull is again ready for her neighbors in Ward 9, Precinct 23 to come to her house to cast their votes.
Hull said she contacted the city and asked to return as a polling place on behalf of her elderly neighbors who have a difficult time traveling to polling locations. Hull said she stays involved because she wants the best, most convenient opportunities to be available for voting, especially for her older neighbors. In addition, Hull said Election Day is an exciting and enjoyable atmosphere.
Two other garage-style voting locations are on the lakefront, one on Carlson Street and the other at David Ippolito’s house on Cartier Drive.
When the nearby Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral declined to operate as a voting place around 2007, Ippolito said that his friend on Carlson Street contacted him because Ward 7, Precinct 41 was “scrambling” for a location. Ippolito agreed on a temporary basis and said that after five years, it’s become a permanent role for his Lake Terrace home.
It was a way to help out after Katrina, make a little extra money and, most importantly, a chance to fulfill a need in the spirit of civic duty, Ippolito said. People now know the house as a place they can vote.
“People count on us more and more,” he said.
There haven’t ever been any problems, and everyone who comes to vote is “really nice,” Ippolito said. He said that on Election Days, he typically gets a strong turnout and likens the atmosphere to a neighborhood party.
Jeanine Aubry, elections supervisor for Clerk of Criminal District Court Arthur Morrell, said that most of the residential polling places on the list in 2005 were damaged by Katrina. The city is willing to work with anyone who wants to host voters, Aubry said, provided the house meets regulations regarding door-width, bathrooms and sidewalk access and parking.
A few other home locations returned for a year or two following Katrina, but their owners decided not to continue as a polling place, Aubry said.
The clerk of court isn’t actively looking to move current polling locations. Most are located in schools and churches. But the in-home polling places are seen as a positive component to the voting process on all fronts.
“The voters seem to like it,’’ Aubry said.