NORWOOD, Ohio - No more long lines. No more cramped quarters. More voter convenience.
Those are the selling points for the Hamilton County Board of Elections' new offices in Norwood.
They're bigger and better in every respect than the old Downtown offices on Broadway. Except they're not Downtown, and that's why some voter advocates like Pastor Ennis Tait of the Church of the Living God are taking a wait-and-see attitude about Thursday's move.
"I think the good thing is Norwood is the center of our city and if the facility itself is doubled in size and the conveniences are there, I think that's a great thing," Tait says.
But Tait sees a negative as well.
"Poor people especially can ride the bus Downtown. It’s hard to get to Norwood directly from various neighborhoods," Tait says, "so that may be a challenge for people getting to the site."
Pastor Nelson Pierce of the Beloved Community Church has the same concern for people who rely on public transportation.
"My hope is that the board of elections increases their engagement with community residents, particularly with those who are most impacted by this — the poorest and those who have the least access to transportation," Pierce said.
Elections officials say they hear and understand those concerns.
"We believe they’re going to find it much more accessible — the new location. We’re centrally located in the city of Norwood," says Sherry Poland, board of elections director.
Three Metro bus lines stop at Surrey Square, a short walk away.
For drivers, there are dozens of free parking spaces just outside the door. A free parking garage is just across the street.
The biggest changes, though, are inside. The space for early voting is double what it was Downtown, and early voters will have their own entrance.
Elections Administrator Joe Mallory says the goal is no more lines outside.
"Our space is big enough that we can get inside the building … The queues will be much larger than it was down on Broadway," Mallory said.
And there is plenty of space for more clerks, Poland noted.
"In our old facility in the past presidential election we were only able to house 12 clerks to process voters. Now, in this new facility we can have 20 to 25 clerks. So, it will really speed up the process for voters," she said.
Downtown’s board offices were on four floors. In Norwood, everything’s on one floor and it's ADA compliant.
There are new board offices, more space for tabulating votes, additional places to store ballots, and a warehouse on site to house all the equipment.
There were plans at one point to move the board offices to Mount Airy, but those were scrapped mainly on the accessibility issue.
Elections Administrator Joe Mallory says the new location, accessibility and parking make the move to Norwood a good one for all concerned.
"Change for a lot of people is difficult and who it was convenient for before it’s not going to be as convenient," Mallory said. "But the people for whom it wasn’t convenient before, it’s going to able more convenient for them."
There have been calls for a satellite voting office downtown, but board member Alex Triantafilou says that’s not allowed under state law.
The board begins operating in Norwood at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Board of Elections phone numbers and email addresses will remain the same. The general number is (513) 632-7000. Find more information about the Board of Elections on its website at VoteHamiltonCounty.org .