The Annapolis City Council could soon be gathering at the Eastport Community Center for a work session thanks to a proposal by Alderman Kenneth Kirby (D—6th ward).
The alderman suggested the move in response to complaints from people in his ward that the center —which is the polling place for the Nov. 6 election—isn't safe.
"There is no place in this city that I feel none of us can walk in," Kirby said.
The concerns about the polling location for November's election were raised after a double shooting near the center on Sept. 9. No arrests have been made, but Police Chief Michael Pristoop previously told Patch that the two men were not shot randomly, and he's hopeful that an arrest will be made.
As Kirby entered the council meeting last night members from his ward stood outside holding signs that read "Ward 6 deserves better" and "disenfranchised voter."
The alderman brought up the protesters as a lead in to his request for an Eastport work session, and said the relocation is necessary to "quell this nonsense."
The city does not choose polling locations for federal elections, and Anne Arundel County Board of Elections Director Joe Torre previously told Patch that it's too close to the election to consider moving the polling location. Maryland election law states that all polling locations must be finalized before the primary elections.
Jim Hunt understood that November's polling place was a done deal, but he came out with his sign because the issue is one on a laundry list of things he thinks the city ignores.
"It's an overriding issue of non-responsiveness," Hunt said. "I have been living in a neighborhood that's right next to Eastport Terrace over a decade, and anytime we raise concerns they fall on deaf ears."
Protest organizer Steven Conn agreed, saying he's tired of his concerns being dismissed. He's also looking ahead to the city's 2013 elections because those polling locations have not been chosen.
Kirby said he thinks Conn's reason for being outside City Hall on Monday night had more to do with political ambitions for 2013.
"I think it’s a few ill advised persons starting the campaign 14 months out and playing a fear card," Kirby said. "It’s divisiveness, and I want it to be seen as divisiveness."
Mayor Josh Cohen took a more nuanced approach.
"I think we do have a responsibility to the extent we can that citizens feel comfortable exercising their rights. That they feel safe," Cohen said. "But too much security and police presence can discourage other people from voting. It’s hard to strike that balance."
He said using the Eastport Community Center as a polling location will be part of "a continuing discussion" that the city will have as it heads into its own election cycle.
Kirby cautioned about letting the rhetortic surrounding the center get out of hand. He said would like people to recognize that the Eastport Terrace community is not something to fear.
"I think our presence at a meeting would do just that," Kirby said. "It would calm some fears."
Read more on this issue:
Police Decide Against Adding Officers at Eastport Polling Place
Police Chief Says Eastport Shootings Weren't Random
Residents Afraid to Vote at Their Polling Place
City Wrangles With Eastport Shooting