Voters cautioned about changing polling places

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If you think you know where you're supposed to vote tomorrow, think again. We've learned one-third of the polling locations have changed since the last election.

That number is even higher since the last general election four years ago.

The line of voters coming out of the City-County Building south down Delaware Street and west on Washington Street Monday showed there is nothing easy about casting your vote.

"Don't assume where you voted in the past is where you are gonna vote in tomorrow, because it may not be right," said Marion County Clerk Beth White.

After the mayor's office changed the precinct lines, a third of all Indianapolis voters will be casting their ballot in a new location.

"Now that is a different place from the Fall of '11, now back to '08, who even knows. We have had so many changes since then," said White.

For example, everyone who voted in a union hall on Massachusetts Avenue four years ago will not be voting there Tuesday. It is still a polling place, but for precincts north and west.

"I had no idea they'd changed the place I was supposed to vote," said a downtown voter named Jane.

She stopped in at Old School 2 to make sure it's her new precinct.

"I've got appointments after work and want to make sure I got there," she said.

The changes have sparked calls to the clerk's office's automated phone line (327-VOTE). Three-hundred voters have called since Thursday and, on most days, more than 1,000 voters hit the county elections web site to double-check their polling place.

"I do think it is going to be a very big issue on Election Day. People may be caught unaware," said Angie Nussmeyer, communications director for the clerk's office.

The Democratic County Clerk's office thinks the Republican mayor's decision to redraw so many precinct maps was unnecessary.

"I don't know that the mayor's office really understood the ramifications of their decisions," Nussmeyer said.

The mayor's office says it is aware of the impact of precinct changes and says those changes were required by law. Also, some locations weren't available because of building construction or other issues.

Mayor Greg Ballard's spokesman Marc Lotter says there are other resources for tracking voting place changes.

"Well, it was very confusing," said Tom Pearson, who lives near 52nd Street and Keystone Avenue.

In the past, Pearson and his neighbors walked one block to IPS School 91 to cast their vote. This year, they're voting at the State Fairgrounds, about a mile away.

"That is quite a busy street and not such a nice neighborhood, close to the fairgrounds," Pearson said. "Tomorrow, I'm actually going to be taking some of my neighbors down there to vote, because they have no other way to get there."

On average, voters spent an hour and 15 minutes in line to vote at the City-County Building Monday. Dora Dowdell, 19, voted for the first time and got through the line before the trouble started.

"I believe it was for the fact there was a cut-off time," said another voter in line.

That cut-off came at noon. A man from Senegal, voting in his second election since becoming an American citizen, was the last in line to vote.

He didn't know it, but his place in line was the start of political gamesmanship. Democratic poll workers handed absentee applications to everyone in line, while Republicans challenged to make sure the end of the line was the end of the line.

"At the time, they didn't have a plan for that, but then they later said they put a Marion County Election Board employee and a building deputy at the end of the line," said Kyle Walker, Marion County GOP Chairman.

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