Grosse Pointe Park polling places all moved to single spot this year

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 27, 2022

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GROSSE POINTE PARK — Grosse Pointe Park voters who opt to cast their ballots in person during the primary Aug. 2 will be doing so at new locations.

All in-person voters will need to head to Windmill Pointe Park, 14920 Windmill Pointe Dr. Voters from Precincts 1 and 2 will go to the Tompkins Center, while Precincts 4, 5, 6 and 7 will hold voting inside the Lavins Center.

City Manager Nick Sizeland said some of the schools that formerly housed voting precincts weren’t available. During a July 18 Park City Council meeting, he said Pierce Middle School is under construction this summer, while Trombly Elementary School was permanently closed as of June 2022.

To not conflict with voting, officials said there won’t be activities at the Lavins Center during the election. The pool will remain open for the August election, but officials noted that the pool entrance is outdoors, so it wasn’t seen as a conflict.

Although Windmill Pointe Park is normally only open to Park residents with valid park passes, that won’t be the case during the election, as people campaigning for candidates need to be able to get inside the park to stump for their candidates.

“Anyone from any community … may come into Windmill Pointe Park” during the election, Sizeland said.

The change will also be in effect in November, when all Park polling locations will once again be at Windmill Pointe Park. Sizeland said the August primary — which is expected to draw fewer voters than the general election in November — will be a good way to test the new locations in advance of the November election.

City Clerk/Treasurer Jane Blahut said the city has already sent new voter identification cards out to all of the city’s registered voters, and they’re also using methods like the city’s website, social media, the city newsletter and the e-blast service Constant Contact to let voters know about the change. New voter cards had to be mailed out, anyway, this year because of redistricting.

Sizeland said they would also be putting signs on the old polling locations with information about the new polling places, along with maps.

“I hope the community sees this as part of our endeavor to make sure things go smoothly in August and November,” Mayor Michele Hodges said. “We want to make sure everyone has easy access to (vote).”

The council approved the polling location changes as part of the consent agenda in April, meaning that it wasn’t an item that was discussed. With advance notice, city council members can request to have consent agenda items removed from the consent agenda and placed on the regular agenda to allow for discussion.

City Councilman Vikas Relan said he was concerned that this item was “kind of hidden” as a result.

“We missed an opportunity to engage our residents,” Relan said.

Other officials said they never intended for the change to be a secret.

“There was a lot of thought put into the change,” Hodges said, noting that the council could always change the polling locations again in the future. “I hope the community doesn’t see this as (us) sliding anything in.”

City Councilman Brian Brenner pointed out that the city has “little control over the schools,” but because the city operates its parks, city leaders can make sure election activity and park activity or projects won’t take place simultaneously.

“I commend the administration on their decision making,” Brenner said.

He wasn’t the only official who felt the new polling locations were positive.

“I think people are going to like it so much, they’re going to want (voting) there all the time,” City Councilman Martin McMillan said.

With no-excuse absentee voting now allowed in Michigan, more voters are opting to cast their ballots that way. Of the Park’s 10,282 registered voters, 2,290 cast absentee ballots and 4,400 went to the polls in 2018, while in 2020, 6,151 cast absentee ballots and 2,257 went to the polls, according to data from the city.

Officials said parking is also not a problem at Windmill Pointe Park, which has 337 regular parking spaces and five handicapped parking spaces — almost three times as many spaces as Pierce Middle School and Defer Elementary School combined.