Monday, June 30, 2008

Laurel City Attorney Opinion on Polling Places

Robert Manzi, Laurel City Solicitor, rendered his opinion on Councilman Mike Sarich's memorandum about the city's lack of a polling place in ward two. Mr. Manzi introduces his legal analysis as follows:

In his Memorandum, Councilman Michael B. Sarich discusses his concerns that the
City of Laurel’s current election system may be violation of local, state and federal laws and regulations. Primarily, he argues that there is a need to add at least one polling place in the city. He also argues that there is a need to redraw election boundaries, as the populations in the two Wards in the city are uneven. He also warns that if the city "willfully and knowingly potentially violate" the local, state and federal elections laws, the City may face intervention from the courts. Moreover, in his press release, he warns that failing to take corrective measures prior to the upcoming September 2008 elections will jeopardize the validity of the election.

This memorandum will not discuss the possibility of placing an additional polling place in the city or redrawing district lines, as the Mayor and City Council are currently conducting a study on this issue in light of the changes in the population since the 2000 census. Instead, this memorandum will discuss whether the upcoming election in September 2008 can be overturned if the City does not add at least one polling place and redraw its current Ward boundaries, as suggested by Councilman Sarich.

Mr. Manzi concludes with the following statement:

Based on the above, it is evident that the lack of a second polling place and/or the failure to redraw the Ward boundaries prior to the upcoming September 2008 election will not invalidate the election.

You can read Mr. Manzi's 2000 word opinion on the city's website.


Anonymous said...

I don't really care about the relations between the council members and the mayor. I'm also not that concerned with the legality of one polling place per se. I have thought for years however that it's disenfranchising, even if legal, and it should be changed. I've mentioned this to many elected officials over the years, it's not a new problem. Even signs redirecting people on election days are helpful. Waiting til 2010 seems somewhat ridiculous, this problem did not just spring up. Even if I'm not a Sarich fan, it's not surprising he thought it's gone on too long as well, even if he leapt to some conclusions.

This fight with Sarich clouds the issue that we really should have two polling places. Ideally, it would be nice if we could have the polling places in locations that are not schools so we could have national and location elections in the same polling places all the time, instead of going to a new place depending on the type of election. I'll miss the city election day atmosphere at the Phelps center, but we need to serve all the voters where they live.

We could do something really novel like online voting, long voting windows or saturday elections. I'll settle for two polls. I think we're long overdue. Ethically, we need to make voting straighforward. Will it help people take their civic responsibility seriously? Harder...

Anonymous said...

I am embarrassed at how poorly written this opinion is. It reads more like a first year law student's memo than a City Attorney opinion. Basic proofreading would have been nice. I thought every attorney learned in law school that if you think you need to say that something is evident or clear, it is neither.

Anonymous said...

"This memorandum will not discuss the possibility of placing an additional polling place in the city or redrawing district lines"

Isn't this what all the fuss was about? They censured Sarich for not waiting for a memo from a guy who didn't discuss the issue in the memo they censured him for not waiting on? Is this right Rick?

Rick Wilson said...

I think I would question the word disenfranchised. Inconvenienced maybe. But not disenfranchised by any measure.

The absentee ballot process for the city is extremely easy. In fact, I think it is even easier than driving to any polling place, convenient or not. To apply for an absentee ballot call the Clerk's Office at (301) 725-5300, extension 120. Ask for an absentee ballot. One will be mailed to you. You then vote and mail it back. How much easier can it be?

Maybe the long term solution is to move our municipal elections to an Oregon postal voting model. Why does anyone care about driving to a polling place on a certain day to vote?

See: for details.