I spent two years in Larimer County, Colorado. During that time the County Clerk and Recorder was launching a first-in-the-nation experiment. Instead of having precinct polling locations, Larimer County received special permission from the state legislature to consolidate their 143 precinct polling locations into just 20-30 (depending on the election) “voting centers.” You can read more about Larimer County’s experiment here.
I worked on a Colorado State House campaign while in Larimer County (we lost by 480 votes, and the candidate, John Kefalas, is running again). That experience allowed me to have an up close and personal experience with many aspects of the voting center model. The result is that I am more than a bit conflicted about the new model. If forced to decide today, I’d say “no” to the expansion of the model. That’s a post of another blog at another time though, and the fact of the matter is that the vote center idea is catching on.
As vote centers expand to other counties in Colorado as well as to other states, one question that must not be overlooked is the possible consequence for rural areas where precincts are already sparsely located. So, while there are some good arguments for consolidating some urban voting locations, efforts should be made to ensure that the implementation of the voting center model does not result in longer drives on election day for rural residents.