Five polling locations in Rochester are no longer available for use because of COVID-19 concerns, and another nine offer new challenges as plans for the Aug. 11 primary election are being finalized.
As a result, the Rochester City Council will review a proposal Monday that will reduce the previously established 46 polling locations to 36.
“It’s not our ideal, but we want to make sure the locations will work for voters in the best way possible,” Rochester City Clerk Anissa Hollingshead said.
Using a single location for more than one precinct isn’t new for the city, which has 52 precincts. The previously approved plan for polling locations had several locations catering to two precincts.
Among polling locations no longer available is the 4H building in Graham Park, which is being used for COVID-19 testing. Also unavailable is Shorewood Senior Housing, which typically accommodates two Ward 2 precincts.
Other sites, including several churches, have concerns about conflicts with shared spaces or a lack of room to ensure safe physical distances can be maintained between voters.
Recent state legislation gives cities until July 1 to change polling sites, if needed.
While many cities are shifting polling places away from school buildings, Hollingshead said she’s worked with Rochester Public Schools to add some locations, including setting up multiple precincts at Mayo High School for the first time.
“We had actually already worked with the school district last year to make Election Day a school holiday this year,” she said, noting that means voters and students will not be occupying the same hallways during the general election in November.
Classes will not have started when the Aug. 11 primary election is held.
Hollingshead said school locations were sought for new voting places, when possible. As a result, 12 of the proposed 15 precinct moves are into school sites.
However, Hollingshead said other factors played into choosing locations when moves were required.
"Careful attention has been paid to total voter counts per overall location, as well as to physical geographic boundaries to attempt to cluster voting locations in areas accessible and logical to voters,” she said in a report to the council.
While Hollingshead has a plan ready to present to the council Monday, she said tweaks could occur before the 3:30 p.m. meeting Monday in council chambers of the city-county Government Center.
At the same time, she said the goal is to avoid any changes between the Aug. 11 primary election and the Nov. 3 general election.
Monday’s council meeting will livestream at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas and available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188.
Following the discussion of polling sites, the council will discuss the city’s 2021 budget.
Meetings held with remote access during the week of June 22 include:
• City Council continued council meeting and study session, 3:30 p.m. Monday in the council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE. Tuesday. The meeting will livestream at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas and available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188.
• Planning Advisory Commission, 7 p.m. Thursday in board chambers of the government center. The meeting will be livestreamed at http://olmstedcountymn.iqm2.com/