Today's school bond election in Brookings is the first roll-out of new "vote centers" that allow voters to cast their ballot at any polling station in the jurisdiction. This is great (particularly when the Precinct 1 polling station actually resides in Precinct 2)!
However, we Brookings-ites can't allow this new voter openness let us fall asleep at the job of clearly identifying our polling stations. This identification was lackluster at best at my local vote center this afternoon.
My registration card told me my geographically-assigned polling station is First Lutheran Church, which is conveniently on the way from my apartment to my office. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the address on my registration card, I saw nothing at all to indicate an election was taking place at this venerable house of worship (which has earned the irreverent "Touchdown Jesus" nickname for its building-sized boulevard-facing image of Jesus with his arms uplifted). I pulled into the parking lot anyway, certain that I would see some sign of democracy as I parked my car.
No such luck. After checking a number of doors for a "Vote Here!" invitation, I had to rely on the friendliness of a church administrator to make my way around the building to the humble vote center.
As it turns out, the vote center is on the farthest corner of the church campus from the main entrance (which I'll defend calling the main entrance due to its proximity to [a] the nearest street intersection, [b] the lighted sign identifying the church, and [c] the church's nickname namesake). The sole sign directing would-be voters to the polling station was at a secondary parking lot entrance barely visible from the intersection in front of the church. The sign faced eastward, making it even less visible to those approaching from the west or south through the intersection.
I obviously made it to the polls and cast my ballot like a good citizen of the Brookings School District, but do we really need to make it so hard to find the polling center? Shouldn't our polling places stand out like beacons to citizens wanting to participate in community decisions? Is one little A-frame sign in the boulevard sufficient to get voters to the single door (of probably a dozen around the church) that leads directly to the ballots (especially considering the vote center at Tompkins Alumni Center gets two A-frames for its considerably smaller lot)?
Now, thanks to the "vote center" concept, anyone stymied by poor signage at First Lutheran could vote anywhere else in town with a polling station (again, this is great!). However, Brookings friends, we can—and should—do better to keep the stymieing to a minimum when it comes to people participating in a public vote.