HEIGHTS – Dearborn Heights voters will have new polling locations after two were approved for change by the City Council.
The changes are for the polling location at Canfield Community Center that serves Precincts 11 and 12 along with the location at St. John Baptist Catholic Church serving Precinct 20.
Crestwood High School will now accommodate the election needs for precincts 11 and 12 moving forward. The motion was approved on a 4-3 vote with Councilmembers Ray Muscat, Nancy Bryer, Bob Constan and Tom Wencel voting in favor while Council Chair Dave Abdallah, and Councilmembers Hassan Ahmad and Mo Baydoun voting against.
John F. Kennedy Jr. Library will accommodate Precinct 20 voters, after the change passed unanimously.
Discussion was centered on the change from Canfield to Crestwood during a Feb. 22 council meeting. Parks and Recreation Director Kimberly Laurencelle — formerly Constan — said the change from Canfield to Crestwood would help with gymnastics and youth programs held at Canfield. There are currently 200 students in the class ages 4 to 18 years old.
She said that on election days, it is difficult to move heavy equipment the night before and put it back the day after, which also causes damage when moved.
“If we lost this program it would be devastating to our youth programming which I am trying to build up, not decrease,” Laurencelle said. “We’ve had this program since 2006. Some families have had their children in this program for years going from level to level. If we can’t move the polls, which is only there twice a year, we will be losing the gymnastics program.”
The program was on track to have $50,000 in revenue, pre-COVID-19, Laurencelle said.
Baydoun said the poll location change was important to him because voters have been going to the same place for years. He also said moving the location would be a harder job for the city clerk and her office.
Another point Baydoun raised was possibly moving the gymnastics program to Crestwood or Riverside Middle School on election days since they have the equipment.
City Clerk Lynne Senia said the Crestwood School District has already agreed to have the poll location for Precincts 11 and 12.
Abdallah said he was personally against moving the poll location, citing that people are used to going to Canfield to vote for over 60 years, and that a new location and logistics could hinder the already low election voter turnout.
Muscat said the decision is tough because he doesn’t want the city to lose revenue or have voters not show up. His concern was with parking at Crestwood High School. He changed his mind when he was told that the school would be closed on election day, so the parking lot would be open to voters.
As someone who has worked the polls since 2009, Bryer said if people want to vote they will show up to the new poll location.
“I don’t want to have us lose revenue or recreation equipment by having a two-day problem,” she said. “We have already changed the precincts around in the last few years. We’ve downsized.”
The discussion for the Kennedy library poll location was shorter with Muscat asking about the city finding somewhere closer to St. John Baptist Catholic Church.
Senia said the library was the closest, and that the city wanted to have Robichaud High School as the new location but that the school will be undergoing major construction in August.
St. John closed over a year ago, but let the city use the building for a polling location without heat or air conditioning. Senia also said the water is off at the church as well.
Abdallah said the city had no choice but to move the poll location since the church is no longer an option.
“The good news is John F. Kennedy Jr. Library on Van Born is a known site, it’s big and convenient,” he said.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])