Alternative polling places do exist, but at least one city official believes the Janesville Police Department is the best location for voting while City Hall is undergoing renovations.
Residents of Wards 3 and 4 typically vote at City Hall, but because of construction, they will need an alternative polling place for the April and August elections.
The Janesville City Council has until March 3 to pick the location of the new polling place, but it likely will decide Monday.
At the council’s Feb. 12 meeting, city Clerk/Treasurer Dave Godek recommended using the nearby police department as a polling place. That suggestion was criticized by some, who said minority voters might be uncomfortable entering a police station to vote, and their votes would be suppressed.
Critics and the council acknowledged the police department is progressive and has a good relationship with minority communities, but they ultimately agreed that the police department isn’t ideal as a voting location. The council directed Godek to find alternatives.
Godek found several but concluded the police station is still the best place. Alternatives include:
- The Armory
- Traxler Park warming house
- City Hall parking garage
- Fire Station No. 1
- First Presbyterian Church
- Janesville Senior Center
City officials ranked each potential polling place on parking, available space, proximity to City Hall, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and cost. The police station ranked first with the Armory close behind.
The Armory doesn’t have handicapped-accessible doors. As it has done at other polling places, the city could provide a doorbell that handicapped voters could ring to get help opening the door, Godek said.
Using the Armory would be more expensive than using the police station. The Armory would not charge the city a fee, but the city would have to pay for postcards notifying voters of the change in polling places. That wouldn’t be necessary with the police station because it’s across the street from City Hall, Godek said.
The Traxler Park warming house is farther away than the Armory and has similar ADA-compliance issues. It also would require notifying voters of a polling location change, Godek said.
Godek recommends against the fire station, church and senior center. The fire station and senior center have limited parking, and the church has an unreliable elevator that would need to be fixed, Godek said.
City officials also reached out St. Patrick and Wilson elementary schools, the Rock County Courthouse, the Janesville Woman’s Club and First Congregational United Church of Christ, but it stopped pursuing those locations for various reasons.
Godek said he understands the “potential concern” about voting at the police department, but he said residents have the option to vote absentee at City Hall or by mail before the election.
“There are alternatives. You don’t have to appear at the polling place,” Godek said.
The council has until March 3 to select the new polling location. If it misses that deadline, City Hall will remain the polling place, and voters might have to use the parking garage to vote, Godek said.
“The garage would certainly be an option,” he said. “Quite frankly, it didn’t rank very well.”