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City clerk seeks joint polling sites

The number of polling sites in Superior would be cut in half under a proposal lofted by City Clerk Terri Kalan. Consolidating the 10 sites down to five would save the city money, alleviate staffing issues and reduce wear and tear on the election ...

Voting
Signs point voters from two separate voting districts to a shared polling site at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College during April elections. A proposal being recommended by City Clerk Terri Kalan would consolidate the city's 10 polling sites down to five, with only one set of election workers at each site. The move would save the city money and reduce wear and tear on tabulation machines, Kalan said. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com).

The number of polling sites in Superior would be cut in half under a proposal lofted by City Clerk Terri Kalan. Consolidating the 10 sites down to five would save the city money, alleviate staffing issues and reduce wear and tear on the election equipment, Kalan stated in a memo that will be presented to city councilors at Tuesday's council meeting.

"I'm not asking them to take any action now," Kalan said. Instead, she is asking them to gather input from their constituents about the proposed change.

"There might be some concerns I haven't thought of," the city clerk said. "I'd like to hear them."

Currently, the 10 polling sites are each staffed with five to seven workers during every election, whether there is a large turnout or not. In some cases, Kalan said, as few as 60 people show up to vote at a site. Consolidating polling sites, she estimated, would save the city approximately $8,000 in staffing costs in a four-election year like 2012. The city currently has 11 voting machines, called tabulators. Each can be programmed for up to 10 different ballot styles, Kalan said, so fewer of the machines - which were purchased in 2006 for approximately $6,000 each - would be needed each election.

"We'd only be utilizing half the equipment, so we would have six backups," she said.

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Although the clerk is still reviewing consolidation sites, her memo lists some possibilities. They include the Richard I. Bong Airport for districts 1 and 3, currently at Bryant School and Wessman Arena; Zion Lutheran Church for the second and fourth districts, which currently meet at the Belgian Club and Christ Lutheran Church; the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College conference center for the fifth and seventh districts; the Billings Park Civic Center for the eighth and ninth districts; and either the Salvation Army Church or Superior Public Library for the sixth and 10th districts, which currently vote at the Government Center and Peter Rich Center. The possible locations are still under review.

The city of Wausau recently consolidated their polling sites from 12 to six. It was a huge money saver, according to City Clerk Toni Rayala. At the time of the consolidation, the city was purchasing new tabulators. Due to the cost savings from purchasing seven machines instead of 13, she said, the proposal was an easy one for the city council to accept. And fewer election officials are now needed.

"We always have problems finding election officials," Rayala said.

In addition, the number of people choosing to vote with absentee ballots is growing, according to Kalan. People no longer have to give a reason for choosing to absentee vote. They can even vote at the city clerk's office up to three weeks before the election date. During the 2008 presidential election, Kalan said, they had people lining up in the hall to absentee vote.

"We staffed our office with election workers" to handle the voters, she said. "It worked really well."

The consolidation proposal comes when election workers throughout the state are preparing to implement the voter ID law. But Kalan didn't think consolidation would affect that learning curve.

"I think that change is going to be a challenge either way," she said.

Kalan plans to bring a final proposal before the council for consideration after she has finished reviewing the locations and addressing any concerns. Anyone with concerns or ideas about the consolidation plan can contact their city councilor or call the city clerk's office at (715) 395-7200.

Related Topics: SUPERIOR
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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