Fresno County’s elections department needs a few good garages.
Brandi Orth, county clerk and voter registrar, is in a race against time to find new polling places so voters can avoid long lines for the June 7 primary election.
California will likely matter in the primary, leading county elections officials to prepare for the voter groundswell by calling house to house for polling sites.
Elections officials are talking to homeowners in areas with the highest need for polling places, asking whether their garages would be available.
Orth said the county was already seeking more sites because some that normally serve for balloting spots were unavailable in June for a variety of reasons.
The polling place problem was further compounded by the California primary election’s growing significance on the national stage since Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton may need California delegates to clinch their nominations before their respective party conventions.
“We are anticipating a very large turnout and we’re being proactive to reduce any possible long lines for voters,” Orth said.
The drive for new balloting locations has resulted in about 45 new ones, Orth said. The county still needs 19 additional sites in strategic places, she said. The neighborhoods are listed on the county’s website.
We are anticipating a very large turnout and we’re being proactive to reduce any possible long lines for voters.
Brandi Orth, Fresno County clerk and registrar of voters
After the polling places are found, an inspection is conducted by elections workers.
To qualify, the site must be Americans with Disabilities Act compliant and meet size and slope requirements for people unable to walk. It also must have available parking and the garage must be big enough.
James Kus and Henry Campos had their level tool and distance measuring wheels ready to inspect distance and slopes on Wednesday. The slopes are important when it comes to the disabled, who can’t navigate steep driveways.
Inside the garage, they check the space to ensure it’s accessible to wheelchairs and has enough room for voting booths.
Jeffrey Van Bergen offered his house in Clovis for a polling place. He points to some areas he will have to clean out so there’s enough room, suggesting that the election will give him an excuse to clear some possessions from his garage.
He said he will work at the polling place, an admittedly long day. He also gets $35 for the use of his garage.
“This election has major implications for the country,” he said. “Somebody needs to do something to help out.”
Orth is under a deadline: She has to find the new sites by Friday so she can start printing ballots next week.
The last time there was a similar need for polling places was in the presidential primary in February 2008, another moment when California played an influential role in the Democratic Party primary battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Polling places wanted:
Nineteen polling locations are needed in certain precincts. Please call 559-600-7353 if you know of a public building or are willing to allow your garage to be used as a polling location on June 7. To see where the polling places are needed, go online to http://www.co.fresno.ca.us/ and search under the registrar link.