|Posted on September 28, 2016 at 10:00 PM|
Official: East Chicago polling place will be moving due to lead
Reaching voters in the process of relocating from the lead-contaminated West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago to inform them of their voting rights is proving more difficult than expected, a county election official said. Michelle Fajman, director of Lake County's Board of Elections and Voter Registration, said election board staff is searching for a new polling site for East Chicago 14, which includes all of the West Calumet complex and a handful of neighboring streets, because the current site is at the complex's community center where lead contamination is prevalent. "We know for a fact the polling place will be moved," Fajman said.
Voters will have to be notified of the emergency change in polling places, but that will be a challenge, she said. A large number of the letters sent earlier this month to the 578 registered voters in the EC-14 precinct informing them of their voting rights if they move before the Nov. 8 election have come back unable to forward. The letters included an explanation of the voting process for those who move and a federal voters registration application.
A second letter to voters informing them of the precinct change will be needed. Fajman said the new information also will be posted online and in local newspapers in an effort to reach as many voters as possible. Staff is still researching a site that meets criteria including parking and American with Disabilities Act compliance.
Barbara Bolling-Williams, president of the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP and treasurer of the James C. Kimbrough Bar Association, attended the meeting and thanked officials for their forethought in reaching out to voters in the affected area so they are not disenfranchised come November. "The reality is over 300 families don't know if they will be able to find adequate housing in that time frame," Bolling-Williams said.
Since so many cannot be reached by mail, she encouraged the board to send a representative to one of the various community meetings that are taking place for West Calumet residents to help keep them informed of the different aspects of their situation. "It is important someone from the board goes out to a community meeting," she said.
West Calumet voters who relocated anywhere in Lake County have the option of returning to their old polling place to vote one last time before registering their new address. They must fill out a form at the polling place to do so. Registered voters who leave the county or the state will have to register again by Oct. 11 in order to vote in the Nov. 8 election.
Fajman asked and received permission for the elections board to hire additional clerks for the precinct for the Election Day to help with questions and potential delays created by paperwork needed for voters who have moved elsewhere in Lake County and returned to vote one last time in their old precinct.