Cities reduce number of voting precincts

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published January 23, 2024

 The city of Berkley’s new precinct map shows the number of precincts reduced to four.

The city of Berkley’s new precinct map shows the number of precincts reduced to four.

Map provided by the city of Berkley

 Huntington Woods saw a decrease of one precinct for its new precinct map.

Huntington Woods saw a decrease of one precinct for its new precinct map.

Map provided by the city of Huntington Woods


OAKLAND COUNTY — Some cities in the Woodward Talk’s coverage area have decreased their number of polling precincts.

New state legislation increased the maximum number of registered voters that a precinct can contain from 2,999 to 4,999. This has led the cities of Berkley and Huntington Woods to lower their total number of precincts.

Huntington Woods went from five precincts to four. The city previously operated each precinct at 1,100 voters. City Clerk Heidi Barckholtz said the city could have reduced the number of precincts by two, but the city wanted to make sure that it would maintain the shortest lines possible for voting days.

“What we didn’t want to do, especially for this election cycle, is have lines,” she said. “Huntington Woods voters are not accustomed to any kind of line, really — maybe a few minutes. We want to see how early voting goes, and then in 2025, we’ll likely go down another one.”

Barckholtz said that while the city will be observing lines in upcoming elections, officials will also take into consideration how many people use absentee ballots when determining whether to consolidate more precincts.

“The permanent AV and the permanent ballot list … I have about 3,200 people on that list, meaning we send them a ballot. So of my 5,600 (registered voters), 3,200 are already voting absentee,” she said. “Even if we went down to three (precincts), you would never be waiting in line for I would say an hour because we just have so many people that vote absentee. … I definitely see us being fine with four. I don’t foresee that being a problem at all. It would just be to determine whether we should go down another one.”

Berkley previously had seven precincts, but now it will have four going forward. City Clerk Victoria Mitchell stated that the decision to reduce the number of precincts was made as voters have more ways to vote.

“When they look at the big picture, we provide nine days of early voting,” she said. “This February we still will be offering early voting in Oak Park Community Center, but beginning in August, we’re going to move it to City Hall. So the residents will have that option to early vote. And then we have the permanent ballot list right now, and we have the AV application list. So absentee voting has increased by quite a lot.

“Just combining all of these other voting opportunities, we’re just trying to offer all that we can, and we really think the trend is that more people are taking advantage of these alternative ways of voting. All the focus isn’t just on Election Day,” she continued.”

The city of Ferndale has decided to wait on reducing its number of precincts, while Pleasant Ridge only has one precinct.

According to Ferndale City Clerk Dean Lent, state legislative districts are getting redrawn in metro Detroit, which has a good chance to impact Ferndale.

Lent stated that the city is waiting to see how the new lines get drawn before making any decisions on the number of precincts.

“We have one precinct that’s in one district and the other eight precincts are in the other House district,” he said. “So we don’t know if we’re gonna end up in two or three Senate districts. We’re gonna try to keep our lines drawn in the way the Legislature has their lines drawn, and so we don’t currently have any split precincts like a lot of other communities do, and that’s kind of the way we prefer.”

“Once that’s all determined, there’s a good likelihood that we’re probably going to want to redraw our lines. And at that point, we’ll probably look at the possibility of reducing precincts,” he continued.