Council preserves polling places
COMPTON—The City Council rejected an ordinance on Tuesday, June 12, that would have changed the voting system in the Hub City to only mail-in ballots, eliminating traditional polling place voting.
The ordinance, introduced by City Clerk Alita Godwin, offered a $90,000 cost savings to the general fund.
Councilwoman Janna Zurita said she received many calls from residents opposing the idea.
“I do not think society is ready for mail-in ballots only,” she said. “Taking a child to the polls and showing them the process is an honor and privilege on Election Day.”
Zurita said many people do utilize mail-in ballots.
“It is their option to do that, but I do not think we should give up that choice at this time,” she said. “I believe at some point the city will convert to mail-in and electronic voting in the future. I do not support it, and those rights would have to be taken from me.”
Councilwoman Yvonne Arceneaux said the ballots confuse seniors.
“They have a hard time matching the numbers to the card itself,” she said.
Residents can choose the mail option, Arceneaux said, by signing up at the city clerk’s office.
“At first I gave it the benefit of the doubt,” she said. “But now, all I see are problems.”
City Clerk Alita Godwin said she is not trying to take away the right to choose.
“There will still be one polling place available for people who prefer voting traditionally,” she said. “Also the punch card system ended a long time ago.”
The current ballots require coloring in the oval corresponding to the candidate.
“Matching numbers may be how the county does it,” Godwin said. “The voting procedure is the same for either mail-in or polling place votes. I do not understand the confusion.”
Voter turnout remains low, she said, and the city wastes a lot of money in unused election material.
“I get boxes of ballots with 50 tabbed on each,” Godwin said. “Many times we use only two. This is just one way to increase voter turnout.”
Quick, easy and cheap works for a lot of things, Zurita said, but not for voting.
“I believe voting by mail is a formula for fraud,” she said.
Godwin said fraud is a polling place issue.
“No one shows identification at a polling place, and signatures are not verified,” she said. “The county, not me, checks every mailin vote signature against the person’s registration card. Committing fraud with a mail-in vote is more difficult.”
Arceneaux said one family got a registration card that had the wrong name on it.
“They could have used it, but they called the county and reported it instead,” she said. “The family has lived in their home for 30 years, and I wonder how broad spread that is.”
The mail-in process, Godwin said, prevents fraud in that instance.
“Even if someone sent it in, the signature would not match the card, and it would be thrown out,” she said. “No one would ever know if that person went to a polling place.”
Councilman Willie Jones prefers educating the voters on the change and letting them decide.
“It worked for Measure B,” he said. “We can do the same thing for mail-in votes. It is not cheap to have a democratic system. It costs money.”
Councilwoman Lillie Dobson said she now supports the idea.
“Saving $90,000 helps, but it is an awful waste to have all these precincts open when no one comes,” she said. “Change can be hard, and I was against it at first, but the lack of participation made me rethink my position.”
Dobson suggested trying mail ballots for one election, and switch back if it does not work.
Mayor Eric J. Perrodin did not attend the meeting.
Compton voters return to the polls for the primary election on April 16, 2013, and the general election on June 4, 2013.
The next City Council meeting is on Tuesday, June 26.