Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Redistricting to Take Its Toll on Familiar Polling Places

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Redistricting to Take Its Toll on Familiar Polling Places

Article excerpt

Byline: Caren Burmeister, Shorelines staff writer

Registered voters in the Ponte Vedra Beach and Palm Valley area may be voting at new polling precincts in the Sept. 10 primary.

Because of population growth and redistricting, the St. Johns County Elections Office has added six new precincts, three of them in the northeastern part of the county, bringing the total number of polling places to 63.

There also are numerous changes to precinct numbers.

Voters in northeast St. Johns County may casts ballots in 10 races in the primary election. Residents in the Municipal Service District will face a charter referendum governing issues such as costly projects and the creation of subdistricts with separate property tax rates.

The Elections Office mailed new voter identification cards and sample ballots to explain the changes Thursday.

"Voters need to keep an eye out for their cards," said Vicky Oakes, administrative assistant at the St. Johns County Elections Office.

Residents who had voted at Christ Episcopal Church, Landrum Middle School, Ponte Vedra-Palm Valley Elementary School, the Ponte Vedra branch library or the Ponte Vedra fire station could be voting at new locations.

In addition, four new polling places have been added: Our Lady Star of the Sea Church off Florida A1A in Ponte Vedra Beach, Palm Valley Fire Station on Canal Boulevard east of Roscoe Boulevard, Sawmill Lakes Community Center off Palm Valley Road and New Beginnings Baptist Church on Florida A1A near Mickler Road.

Cheryl Manucy, chief deputy supervisor of elections in St. Johns County, said it was tricky to rearrange polling places in Ponte Vedra Beach. That's because the few sites available are in a congested area and not spread out enough to accommodate political dividing lines and the number of registered voters in the area.

The ideal goal is to have no more than 2,000 registered voters using a precinct, she said.

In choosing polling precincts, elections officials consider the political dividing lines and natural dividing lines such as major highways, distance traveled, convenience and the number of registered voters that would use the precinct.

"It's a lot more involved than most people think," Manucy said.

MSD residents will face a referendum, a package of seven charter amendments crafted to limit the district board's potential for abusing its power. The Legislature and governor approved the bill several months ago. Voters now must decide whether it should go into effect.

Residents in the district pay extra taxes for limited services such as additional trash pickup, extra police protection, street lighting and beautification projects. The district runs from the Duval County line south along A1A to Corona Road, east to the ocean and south along Ponte Vedra Boulevard to Guana River State Park.

If approved, the referendum would require a public vote on capital projects exceeding $150,000, voter approval for a property tax rate exceeding $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value, using unspent funds of more than $200,000 to reduce the next year's property tax rate and the board to publicize vacancies no later than two weeks after receiving a resignation. …

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