Ballot box bargain

Maybell applies for grant to keep voting center

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By applying for a state grant to pay for necessary renovations to its voting center, the town of Maybell is attempting to cement its ability to practice democracy locally.

In 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, which detailed requirements for voting centers throughout the country. Requirements ranged from building specifications to indoor phone lines.

For the last two years, the Maybell Community Center has doubled as the town's polling place.

To comply with HAVA, the community center needs to make improvements, a process that is under way.

Maybell's previous voting center was the town library. According to HAVA requirements, the library would have needed too many upgrades, said Stephanie Pearce, an administrative assistant for the Moffat County Clerk's Office.

Improving the community center instead of the library makes more fiscal sense, Pearce said.

Through HAVA, communities may apply for grant money to pay for improvements that would bring their voting centers into federal compliance.

Maybell community officials have applied for an $11,350 grant to pay for community center upgrades. Pearce authored the grant application.

Pearce said the only change needed at the community center is a new handicap ramp into the building, which would cost $5,000.

The Maybell community center has two entrances, one that already has a handicap ramp. But the existing handicap ramp is not the right size to be up to code, according to a copy of the grant.

And, though not required by HAVA, the building could also use an adjustment to its high ceilings, which make acoustics inside the building almost unbearable for people with hearing loss, said Ken White, a member of the Maybell Community Center board.

"My wife, who uses a hearing aid, can't hear anything under the current conditions," White said.

A request for money to fix the ceiling is included in the grant Maybell has applied for, Pearce said. The ceiling would cost $6,350 to fix.

According to the grant application, the Maybell community center is "the only public vote center available in the rural area."

In addition to Maybell's 213 registered voters, nearby Browns Park has another 44 registered voters that would use the community center in upcoming elections, said Lila Herod, chief deputy director of elections for Moffat County.

Herod said that if the community center isn't brought into HAVA compliance, voters from Maybell and Browns Park would have to commute to Craig -- a 30-mile trip for Maybell residents and a 90-mile drive for Browns Park residents -- to vote.

White said the community center has been in Maybell since the late 1940s. He added that keeping the community center as a polling place makes sense. "It's mainly a geographical thing," he said. "We are a far distance from Craig."

Another improvement the community center needed was the installation of a phone line to make on-line submission of votes possible.

The Moffat County Com--mission has agreed to pay for the installation of the phone line as well as monthly service for the months the phone line is needed.

White added that the community center is not used solely for voting. It's an important venue for various local groups.

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