Polling location difficulties

Construction delays access to the polling location at 1825 W. Fulton Street just off Jackson Blvd in Rapid City on Tuesday.

The Rapid City and Pennington County websites had some wrong information about voting locations on their websites until about midday on election day, officials said. 

Two polling places were wrong on the "current polling places" list on the city's election page because the list was from the 2016 election, said city spokesman Darrell Shoemaker. The list said voters in Precinct 1-1 should vote at the First Assembly of God instead of Parkview Church and that those in Precinct 4-3 should vote at the Oyate Center at the Lakota Homes apartments instead of Atonement Lutheran Church.

Shoemaker said the city updated its list after being contacted by someone from the Pennington County Auditor's Office. 

"Again that's no excuse. Any link to information should have the correct, updated information," he said. 

Shoemaker said all other links on the city's election page had correct information. 

He also said that a Rapid City GIS worker alerted the Pennington County Auditor's Office after realizing the office had incorrect information on the "Rapid City Precinct Map" link on its district maps page

Cindy Mohler, Pennington County auditor, said the map correctly showed Atonement Lutheran Church as the voting site for Precinct 4-3 but a list on the bottom of the map incorrectly said it was the old Lakota Homes location. The map was later updated.

She called the mistake an "oversight" and said Precinct 1-1 changed locations in 2017 while Precinct 4-3 changed in 2016 after the owner of the Lakota Homes apartments decided it no longer wanted to be a polling site. 

Mohler said voters were sent letters about the polling changes at the time and that the best way to check your polling site is to call the Auditor's Office (394-2153) or visit the Secretary of State's voter information portal

In other election day problems, a paving project along Fulton Street in west Rapid City caused delays for voters trying to access a polling location, Shoemaker said.

The Precinct 3-1 polling place at the Jackson Heights apartments has been open the entire day but voters need to "be patient and persistent," he said. 

Shoemaker said the city sent workers and added signs to the area to let voters know that the polling place is open, but they may need to wait longer to turn onto Fulton Street and make the short drive to the high-rise apartments.

"There were a lot of angry people at 7 a.m." when the voting opened, said poll worker Mary Mertes. She said people were having to park on Jackson Boulevard and walk up the hill to reach the apartments. Construction crews did not leave the site for the day until 5 p.m.

"We wondered if it was poor planning or voting suppression," said voter Clark Jones. 

Simon Contractors was hired by the city to pave Fulton Street and was expected to finish the project before election day but recent rain got in their way, Shoemaker said. 

Mohler said her office called the Secretary of State Office to see if her office can open a new polling site, but the state office said it's not allowed, and voting hours are only extended when a location is closed for at least two hours. 

The Auditor's Office doesn't call each polling place to make sure there is no construction going on, and construction workers don't call her office to ask if they're working near a polling place, she said. 

"We've not had a problem with it in the past," Mohler said. 

Mohler said she will see how the construction impacts voting to decide if her office needs to make any changes in the future. 

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— Contact Arielle Zionts at arielle.zionts@rapidcityjournal.com

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