People often loathe change, and Jefferson Parish’s decision to relocate more than two dozen polling precincts ahead of the Oct. 24 primary apparently was no exception.
Several residents who went to the Parish Council meeting Wednesday raised numerous complaints about the new polling sites the parish selected in response to a lawsuit alleging that people in wheelchairs faced obstacles at many polling places.
They said the new polling places seemed no easier to access and the previous ones weren’t given a chance to rectify the problems that officials said left them out of compliance with the American with Disabilities Act.
Council members said many other people had called them saying the same things, and they asked an attorney who filed the lawsuit what could be done.
That attorney, Thomas Anzelmo, said nothing would prevent the precincts from reverting to their old locations if those sites come into compliance with the ADA. Fixes already are underway at multiple facilities so that they can become ADA-compliant and again accommodate the voting precincts that moved out, he said.
But that did little to quell the frustration that some members of the audience and council expressed about the switches.
Don Camardelle, who votes in the lower Jefferson community of Crown Point, said the parish sent him a notice of his new polling place “severely late” — less than two weeks before the election.
It didn’t personally affect Camardelle because he participated in early voting, which takes place at only a handful of sites, but Councilman Chris Roberts and some of his colleagues said they were worried that others who received word of the changes that late may have decided not to cast ballots.
Richard Brown — the commissioner in charge of a Kenner precinct that was moved from Christ the King Lutheran Church in the Cannes Brulees subdivision to a gym a mile away — said he couldn’t believe one of the reasons his polling place was relocated was that its handicapped parking spaces weren’t painted blue. He said the church wasn’t given a chance to fix that deficiency before the precinct was moved.
He added that the gym’s parking is inadequate for the number of voters typically seen during presidential elections.
“We had complaints galore for this Oct. 24 election,” Brown said. “I can’t imagine what it will be for (next year’s presidential) election.”
Councilman Ben Zahn said he expects that Christ the King will be available for use as a polling place again next year.