Council approves resolution in favor of Scarboro voting site

Oak Ridge City Council, at its October meeting, passed a resolution supporting the Scarboro Community Center as a voting location for the Oak Ridge Town Hall compound.

But the decision does not lie with the city council. The Anderson County Election Commission will have the final say.

City Council Member Jim Dodson introduced the motion and City Council Member Ellen Smith seconded. City manager Mark Watson explained during the meeting that the two of them took the issue to city council.

All city council members voted “yes” on the measure, with the exception of Pro Mayor Tem Rick Chinn.

Rick chinn

“I think this is an overtaking of the Council,” he said, adding that Council members should come to the Election Commission as individual citizens.

“The citizens brought this to us,” said City Council member Derrick Hammond in response. “The citizens ask us to represent them.

A group of citizens presented a petition in support of the Scarboro Community Center site at the October 11 council meeting, which the city council then sent to the Anderson County Election Commission.

Hammond is a pastor at Oak Valley Baptist Church, which, like the Scarboro Community Center, is located in the historic community of Scarboro.

Derrick hammond

The election commission plans to move the voting site to the Oak Ridge town hall compound and is considering either the Scarboro Community Center or the Oak Ridge Seniors Center. In recent years, it has been at the Oak Ridge Municipal Building. Due to concerns about accessibility for people with disabilities, Oak Ridge city officials have asked the election commission to relocate the site. The move will not affect the early voting locations or any other site within the precinct on Election Day. The Scarboro Community Center and Oak Ridge Seniors Center are both within the compound, as shown in a map on the election commission website.

The Council resolution refers to the request made by a group of citizen petitioners in October. More recently, a group, which included many of the same people, also approached the Election Commission with the same petition.

Susan Ochs, a resident living in the compound, addressed the election commission with a speech, saying 60% of voters in the district live within a mile of the Scarboro Community Center. She said the building’s “spacious” gym could hold the voting machines and described the site as safe, secure and accessible.

Ochs said online the petition has won 153 people registered in Anderson County, including 34 on the grounds of City Hall. In person, he won 366 entries in Anderson County, including 250 in the City Hall compound. Ochs said there were more than 500 signatures in total arguing that the Scarboro Community Center was the new voting site.

Valerie Roberson

Others discussing the move focused on race and history. Valeria Roberson, a resident of Burnham Woods, spoke to City Council about her childhood in Scarboro. Both are part of the enclosure. Scarboro was a black neighborhood during the time of Oak Ridge segregation.

“This distinction of being so-called second-class citizens does something for a people. To this day, the color of our skin affects the way others see us, and for some it is still ‘less than’ “It’s like being put in a hole and people keep throwing dirt at you. However, some of us have thrived anyway, while others haven’t,” said Roberson .

“It would be nice if we were consulted before certain decisions were taken,” she said. “We don’t want to be invisible people anymore.”

This resolution comes amid the growth of downtown. Main Street Lofts, an apartment and condominium complex, is under construction. The developer of this complex is looking to add even more apartment buildings to the site. Election administrator Mark Stephens stressed that those residents will live closer to Oak Ridge Senior Center, although neither he nor the Election Commission have yet made a decision.

Ellen smith

Smith was a strong supporter of the Scarboro Community Center selection, including writing a column on its behalf and visiting the Anderson County Election Commission to present a petition.

In response to questions from The Oak Ridger about downtown growth, she said people moving into the new apartments were likely to be younger and go to the Midtown community center to vote early rather than wait. on election day to vote. In addition, she said residents of the new apartments are “almost certain to have cars.”

Election Commissioner Mark Stephens

No decision will be final until the redistribution process, which is due to take place by Dec.31, said Stephens.

In response to whether the two locations could serve voters on election day, Stephens told The Oak Ridger that would require the creation of a new constituency.

He spoke out against the idea of ​​dividing the city hall compound, saying it was “not that big”, with only about 1,700 registered voters and only 249 people who voted on the day. of the ballot.

He said he did not believe state law allowed multiple polling locations in a single constituency and that it would be more difficult to prevent people from voting multiple times with more than one location.

“It would create a huge problem of electoral fraud,” he said.

Ben Pounds is a reporter for The Oak RIdger. Call him at (865) 441-2317, email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Bpoundsjournal.

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