During Monday’s Jamestown City Council meeting, county election commissioners Norman Green and Brian Abram discussed the Ward 3 polling site situation with council members. The discussion came after the National Comedy Center (NCC) notified the commissioners it no longer wanted to host voting inside its gift shop, which was previously the center concourse for the Jamestown Gateway Train Station.
The BOE is permitted to select any location owned by a non profit that is suitable to hold elections and the NCC is a non profit organization. However, city attorney Elliot Raimondo explained that state election law doesn’t permit voting to take place inside establishments that also hold a liquor license, which would preclude the NCC.
But Green said that’s not always the case in New York State and said there are several examples of voting taking place at locations that also hold a liquor license. He said as he understands it, the law primarily focuses on having voting take place in the same room that alcohol is being served, and that’s not the case at the NCC.
Green also said that this is the first instance in his 22 years at the Board of elections where a location has said it no longer wants to host voting.
Some council members, including Vickye James (D) who represents Ward 3, said they would prefer the polling site stay where it is, adding that her constituents feel like they are not welcome by the NCC. Councilman Jeff Russell (R-At Large) also spoke out against moving the polling site, saying the building was renovated 10 years ago with public money, and it should remain accessible to the public – even if on a limited basis. Other council members who spoke in favor of keeping the polling location at the NCC were Tamu Graham Reinhardt (D-at large) and both Marie Carrubba (D-Ward 5). Carrubba said that with redistricting planned for next year, there could be need to move the polling location again to conform with new Ward 3 boundaries. As a result, the BOE should wait until that process is over before making any moves.
However, Council President Tony Dolce (R-Ward 2) said it’s up to the BOE and the NCC to come to a conclusion on the issue, but did say there were other locations to consider. Those locations included both the Lucille Ball Little Theater and the James Prendergast Library.
The BOE will now have to decide if it wants to keep the polling site where it is, with the NCC possibly challenging that decision. Or respect the wishes of the NCC and move to a new location.
Following the council meeting, the NCC released a statement pointing to the state law involving polling sites not being at a location that also sells liquor, and saying the consulted with the New York State Board of Elections, and it advised the organization due to its liquor license, the entire facility is prohibited from being a polling site.