BINGO! Manatee County Rescues Polling Place After Host has Change of Heart

[Image via windsorstar]

Polling places are vital to most election offices, but a story from Manatee County (Bradenton) FL – about a near-miss conflict between ballots and bingo cards – reminds us that the buildings involved are also vital, albeit for different reasons, to the owners. The Bradenton Herald has more:

Voters in West Manatee will continue to cast their votes at American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24 in future elections, according to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections.

Last week, Supervisor of Elections Michael Bennett said Precinct 315 was losing its long-time voting location because of a conflict with the American Legion post’s Tuesday night bingo.

But on Wednesday morning, the Supervisor of Elections Office announced the post had a change of heart since the story ran in the Bradenton Herald. Nearly 4,000 voters are currently registered at Precinct 315.

“I am grateful for the post’s flexibility that will allow our continued partnership serving the voters of Precinct 315. It is always in the best interest of Manatee County voters to preserve relationships that result in positive experiences at the polls,” Bennett wrote in a letter to the editor. “I would also like to thank the management of all of our voting sites who continue to express their patriotism by opening their doors to our voters on Election Day.”

Bennett sums everything up as a serious miscommunication.

“John Alderman called me about continuing voting out there. They made it happen, so we’re happy about that,” Bennett told the Herald Wednesday afternoon.

With membership falling in groups such as the American Legion, the VFW and Kiwanis clubs, bingo has become a main revenue source, Bennett explained. But the American Legion post board met and agreed to make changes so the Post 24 could continue to act as a voting precinct.

The post’s website still lists bingo from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays. Polls locally usually close at 7 p.m.

It’s tempting to chuckle at this as a small slice of Americana, but the underlying issue – conflicting priorities for the building owners as the election office stands by, essentially helpless – repeats itself across the country every election cycle. Whether it’s security concerns about security in schools or competition for space at Halloween, the potential for conflict and double-booking of polling locations is a constant worry. The worry goes both ways; as the article suggests, the American Legion is making a huge concession by cancelling or rescheduling 25% of a key monthly revenue source (and if the parking lot at my local volunteer firehouse two nights a week is any indication, it’s significant revenue). Here’s hoping that Bingo Night and Election Night can continue to co-exist in West Manatee.

Clear your cards, everyone – and stay tuned …

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