ST. CLAIRSVILLE -- The Belmont County Board of Elections held an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon at board headquarters to deal with a sizable dilemma.
The board was made aware on Monday that the lone polling site in the City of Martins Ferry was no longer available. Liberty Automotive, located at the intersection of Hanover Street and Ohio 7, was used as the voting location for Martins Ferry residents in the most recent election.
The owner of the building opted not to have it used as a polling site this time around.
The notification was a double dose of bad news, as it left city residents without a voting site while the board had until the end of this week to finalize the November election.
Prior to Liberty Automotive, Martins Ferry residents cast their ballots at the former South School. The building was sold and was targeted to serve as a senior citizen center for Belmont County.
Those plans, however, fell through, and the building was sold again. The former school is still in a state of flux as it is reportedly in the process of being sold. Consequently, it is not available for election purposes.
The election board's hands are tied when choosing a site. A myriad of restrictions go with polling locations, including be handicap accessible as well as having ample parking.
With those restrictions in hand, the board has just one other option within city limits -- that being the Martins Ferry school campus. The Martins Ferry Board of Education opted not to have voters use its facilities.
With no remaining building in Martins Ferry meeting legal guidelines, the election board was left with two options.
One was sending Ferrians to the Colerain polling site; the other was using the James Carnes Center in St. Clairsville.
Board members unanimously voted to use the Hilltop Social Center in Colerain for Martins Ferry voters in the Nov. 5 election.
"The board put a lot of painstaking time and research into this situation," board chairperson Frankie Lee Carnes said. "We examined every possible site in Martins Ferry. We were left with no possibilities in the city. Colerain is the best option we have."
While Martins Ferry residents may not relish traveling out of town to vote, they can still cast their ballot and avoid making that trip.
"We urge all voters to take advantage of early voting. They can have a ballot mailed to them or they can stop out and vote at our board offices," Election Board Director Bill Shubat said. "Should they elect to go to Colerain, we have calculated the longest possible drive for any Ferry resident is 11 miles to the Colerain site."
The election board began mailing out voting notifications today.
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