Manatee supervisor of election considering removing one precinct from closed list

jajones1@bradenton.comFebruary 14, 2014 

Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett. SARA KENNEDY/Bradenton Herald

MANATEE -- Supervisor of Elections Michael Bennett said Friday he is taking a second look at one of 30 voting precincts slated to be closed.

The closings were approved this week by Manatee County commissioners at the request of Bennett, who cited the declining number of voters who go to the polls on election day. A growing number of voters are choosing to cast their ballots by absentee or during early voting.

The decision to reduce the number of precincts from 99 to 69 brought sharp objections from Democrats, and others concerned about reduced voter access to polls.

Bennett met with members of the League of Women Voters and the NAACP on Friday, and told the Herald afterward in an interview that he was reconsidering the closing of one of the precincts.

Rosalie Shaffer, a member of the League of Women Voters of Manatee County, said the precinct in question was problematic because of the long driving distance to reach the new precinct.

"It put the people there at quite a distance to get to the precinct," Shaffer said.

Shaffer said she thought Bennett was trying to listen to the community and that he had concerns about unhappiness he was hearing about the cuts.

"He was trying to accommodate their needs," Shafer said.

Susie Copeland, president of the Manatee County NAACP, said the precinct is No. 47, Rogers Memorial United Methodist Church, 1100 15th St. E., Bradenton.

"It's one of the precincts that affected the African-American community," Copeland said.

"It was fair that he would keep that precinct open. That was necessary I thought. That was a move in the right direction," Copeland said.

Michael Gallen, the county commissioner representing District 2, applauded the possible reopening of a precinct.

"My concern all along was access for the poor and elderly," Gallen said. "It is helpful in my mind that we have more neighborhood precincts."

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter:@jajones1

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