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Voter Suppression: Commerce Unexpectedly Moves Mar. 3 Polling Places

By Brian Hews

Residents of Commerce in and around certain areas have been going to the same polling place and casting their vote for over 30 years.

Until this year, that is.

The Sample Ballot, with polling place addresses inside, was mailed out to Commerce residents this past week and some residents who walked one block to vote now have to drive across town to cast their ballot.

Coincidentally or not, this is one of the most heated Commerce City Council races in years.

One older adult who lives near Bandini Park said she is being sent four miles across town to Veterans Park.

Political experts know that older adults are the most likely to vote.

“I don’t drive, this will be very hard for me to get to the park and vote, this is outrageous,” said one resident who declined to give her name.

And the opposite holds true for people who live near Veterans Park, they are being sent to the Senior Center, again putting pressure on the older adults.

Another resident said she looked up where to vote on lavote.net, and the Atlantic Branch Library was listed as their polling place.

Trouble is, the library is closed.

A resident called the county after learning she was voting at the library and was told that the county received that information from the city.

Sources in Commerce tell HMG-CN that this is a scheme to suppress the vote by certain council members in the city.

The timing of the Sample Ballot mailing certainly looks bad. Former Assistant City Clerk Victoria Alexander abruptly resigned without notice just a week ago.

In a Feb. 4th email to City Council members and candidates, city clerk Lena Shumway tried to explain the situation and blamed it on the County.

Shumway said, “yesterday late at night around 6 pm I discovered that three precinct locations were entered in the election system incorrectly by the County.

I spent couple of hours gathering information late last night as to what happened and extent of the error.  The County prepared the map with the corresponding polling places correctly and we finalized and confirmed information.  However, when the county transferred the information, polling place locations for three precincts were incorrect and information was never updated on lavote.net<lavote.net>.

Our Consultant, Martin and Chapman, received the data from the County to generate labels for sample ballots.  Some residents received their sample ballots with an incorrect polling location indicated on the back cover.   I investigated that matter last night, and was able to get a hold of our consultant Martin and Chapman.  Please note: The error only affected the residents that received sample ballots.  Those residents that received absentee ballots are not affected.

Today, we are in the process of correcting the mistake and we will get a hold of the County to correct polling place locations.  We will immediately mail (today or tomorrow the latest) a an Official Election post card to all affected residents indicating that there was an error in the polling place location, and indicate the correct polling place.

Initially, we will also notify the community through the City’s cable channel as well as the City website to get the word out.   Residents should receive post cards with their correct polling place location this week by Saturday.  We will continue to provide you updates regarding this matter.   We will also look beyond post cards at other means to inform the public as to the error and the correct information.

Commerce Councilwoman Denise Robles told HMG-CN, “an unfortunate error took place in Commerce.  The incorrect polling place was printed on most ballots in the city.  This error can have serious consequences for the election.  It is vital that material sent out for an election is accurate.  All measures should have been taken to ensure that information on the Sample Ballot was correct prior to releasing to print and mail. The error will be costly, not only monetarily, but also can have a cost to any of the candidates, since providing incorrect information on a sample ballot can effect voter turnout.  Every effort must be taken to inform voters of the correct information.”

Robles went on to say, “my main concern is that voters are not disenfranchised  – they must be able to have the right to vote and their voice heard and correct information to do so. I encourage all voters to call city hall for their exact location of the polling place.”

Resident and activist Mike Alvarado was livid, “I have been voting at the same place for over 25 years. These people, the Commerce City Hall Administrator, attorney and four of the worst councilmembers in the history of Commerce, are pathetic and they will go to any length to manipulate the voting process for their gain. I have never seen so much corruption, what has to happen before the Department of Justice or the FBI take action?”

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