201 South Broadway,
501-340-8383, fax 501-340-6024
e-mail: [email protected]
WHY DO PRECINCT BOUNDARIES CHANGE?
Every ten years following the Federal Census, the State Board of Apportionment meets at the State Capitol to reapportion the entire state into House of Representative and State Senatorial districts to provide for an equal number of inhabitants in each district.
Every ten years following the Federal Census, each county board of
election commissioners throughout the state must reapportion the justice of the
peace districts (
From the new boundary lines officially designated for the State House of Representative, State Senatorial districts, and justice of the peace districts, the county board of election commissioners must designate voting precincts based on the new boundary lines.
Imagine a map of the county with the State Senate district lines drawn on it. Then overlay those lines for the State House of Representative districts. On top of that, overlay the county justice of the peace districts. From the three overlays, areas are identified that have the same State Rep. District, the same State Senate District and the same Justice of the Peace District. This is the basis for drawing precinct boundaries. It is a voting district with “like” things in it so all voters therein are voting on the same representative offices. A precinct is, by definition, a geographical boundary for voting purposes. This ensures the integrity of the voting process by removing the confusion as to which ballot style to give voters within a precinct.
Additionally consideration is given to population within each precinct. An ideal number of voters residing in any precinct would be less than 2,000. Some precincts will have less because of the way the lines fall, but none should have more than 2,000 registered voters assigned to that poll site.
In a few instances there may be a “split” in a precinct. That means that some of the boundary lines were so close together that the area created by those lines alone would be too small to be a single precinct.
So, precinct lines are redrawn every ten years following the reapportionment at the state level and the reapportionment at the county level, all based on the Federal Census and population growth or movement.
WHY DO VOTING LOCATIONS CHANGE?
Once precinct boundaries are designated, the county board must identify a voting site to serve all voters within each precinct. By law, the voting location must accommodate all voters residing in the precinct. Sites are to be fixed at well-known points and easily accessible to all electors entitled to vote therein. And unless it is impossible to locate a site within the boundaries, voting locations will be within the precinct.
With reapportionment and the redrawing of representative boundary lines and subsequent precinct boundary lines, some voters will be required to change the voting location that has become familiar to them. Everyone knows that voters become accustomed to voting at the same site, and that any change will cause confusion.
Every effort is made by the county board of election commissioners to keep the voting locations the same, but following the ten-year census significant boundary changes can occur, and this year did occur. With population growth some new voting locations may be added that can cause a greater shift in voting location assignments.
HOW ARE VOTING LOCATIONS CHOSEN?
The county board must locate a polling site and then seek approval by the facility administration to use the site for voting purposes. The facility managers can revoke that permission at any time. No law requires churches, schools, or businesses to become a voting location simply based on the request of the county board, but most facility administrators do recognize the civic responsibility in serving as a polling site.
The county board must designate all voting locations no later than 30 days before any election. There may be an emergency, or last minute change in a voting location in the event of a natural disaster.
HOW WILL I KNOW IF MY VOTING LOCATION ASSIGNMENT HAS CHANGED?
The law requires the county clerk to mail a notice to each voter at least 15 days before any major election if the voting location has changed from the last election. Signs are posted at each polling site by the county board to notify voters, too.
Voters should call the county clerk well in advance of any election to verify their voter registration status and check on their voting location assignment. Remember, voting locations are subject to change for various reasons, like the facility has decided not to be a poll or the site may be under repair, remodeling, etc. Also, for small elections voting locations may be consolidated.
The precinct number assignment for each voter will identify the voting location. Voting locations are published in the newspaper prior to any election. Voters can contact the county board of election commission office or the county clerk’s office to find out if there are any changes, too.
WHAT IF I DON’T LIKE MY ASSIGNED VOTING LOCATION?
Voters have the option of voting early or absentee or on Election Day at their assigned poll. Early voting is available to voters for up to two weeks before any election at the office of the county clerk. Off-site voting locations are available in convenient sites throughout the county at hours convenient to voters. Any voter may vote early with no excuse, as it is an option of convenience.
Ballots may be mailed to voters upon completion of an absentee ballot request form from the county clerk (340-8683). Absentee voters must provide a reason for the request for an absentee ballot (either unavoidably absent from the voting place on the day of election; or unable to attend the polls because of illness or physical disability).