By Maddie O’Shea
On Feb. 6, the Berks County Elections Board voted to add a polling location on KU’s campus. It will be at the Rec Center.
KU’s Eric Johnson, a history professor, assisted locals who worked with the County Commissioners and KU to convince the Elections Board.
Johnson presented the case at a meeting of the elections commission. He convinced the elections board that the constituents of the precinct would be better served on campus.
According to the County of Berks’s site, preferences for polling locations under the election code are given to public buildings and public schools. Other considerations include parking, location, notoriety and security.
Johnson argued geographically a polling location on campus would make more sense. The current polling location is opposite of where people are actually living. But KU is a central area that will draw more votes from both residents of the town and students.
Johnson mentioned others who aided in the process, including President Hawkinson; Sandy Green, a former KU mayor; and the KU Democrat Club.
“Shoutout to President Hawkinson,” said Johnson. “He made it a priority to move it back here and greenlighted what needed to be done.”
Sandy Green was another important individual who brought expertise to the matter. Green is currently KU’s Community Liaison & Government Relations Assistant. With her background, she works in public relations.
“With my 12 years of experience as a mayor, I was able to advise the Democrat Club to go with the facts,” Green said.
At one point in time, there was a polling place at KU in the trophy cabinet room in Keystone Hall. Because of the heavy foot traffic, there were security concerns for election officials. Ever since it was moved off campus, Johnson said he drove students to the new location so they could vote. KU shuttles were also available for those who wished to get to the polls.
“The university did a good job with the shuttles, but they aren’t always adequate,” Johnson said. “It’s sometimes hard to carve out that unspecified time between classes, not to mention the lines.”
Voting has been an issue on campus. A big part of the effort is informing students.
KU has had disruptions regarding students getting registered. For instance, Johnson said some students didn’t know if they voted near campus, they had to change their registration address. Off campus groups have come to KU and collected student registrations.
“It’s an educational thing as well,” said Green. She is advocating for professors to speak about how students can properly register to vote and have students work the polls.
On the upcoming election day, the building and its parking lot will be adjusted for voting. While the fitness center will remain open for use, both basketball courts will be closed, ensuring election-only activity can occur as smoothly as possible.
Johnson acknowledges that several people complain about the difficulties of getting to the polls. “This takes away the obstacle.”