By Cheryl Dowden, October 29, 2021
At the October 20, 2021 Board Meeting, the Hot Springs Village Property Owners Board of Directors were faced with a decision on whether to allow outside area elections to take place inside the gates. This issue was previously discussed twice, without the Board coming to a decision.
Vote Centers must be open to all county voters. This means that Vote Centers inside the gates are open to all voters, whether they are Hot Spring Village residents or not. If there is a Voting Center inside the gates, during an election period, almost anyone could come to the gates and say they would like to come into the Village to vote. This opens the Village up to a lot of extra traffic, among other issues. The Board discussed the issue and made a decision last Wednesday, October 20.
Recently, the Board received a letter from Garland County Election Commission Chairman, Gene Haley, which “requested an updated Board decision concerning polling locations inside Hot Springs Village.” This letter prompted the Board to make a decision on this matter. Specifically, “Fountain Lake School District is holding a special election to increase the millage rate on February 8, 2022. Chairman Haley needed an answer as to whether the Village will allow Vote Centers inside the gates for this upcoming vote.
Chair Corry said, “by doing the polling inside the Village, I wanted to understand from our Compliance Division what that would mean.”
Corry continued, “Charlie [Brown – HSV Code Enforcement Manager] sent me his thoughts on it. Everybody should have that paper…We talked about it the last time. Some of you had some firm beliefs in it. Some of you, not so much. But what I would like to do is have a vote on it today so we can get in contact with Garland County and let them know what our plans are. Also, I had something from Keith Keck that said that Saline County was okay with the way they’ve done it in the past, which they did not have it inside. It was outside the gates.”
Director Gary Belair asked, “On voting day, only?”
Corry responded, “Anytime. They will continue on with how they’ve done it. Last year, even with COVID, we voted there…right before you come in the gate.”
Vice Chair, Tucker Omohundro stated, “Well, we’re in a gated community. There are sacrifices. That doesn’t come without issues, on occasion. To open the Village up for two or three weeks to anybody that wants to come in the doors is to me not acceptable. I don’t know how we do a motion or whatever…”
Corry asked, “would you like to make a motion that we…?”
Omohundro answered, “I want to discuss that further, myself. We had talked about maybe a single day election, we might be able to deal with that. The risk lessens considerably of anything coming from that. So I don’t know for sure how we do that.”
Corry said, “it’s actually called a “Vote Center,” is what it is called in the Statute. That means that those polling places inside will be available for early vote.”
Omohundro asked, “even in a school election?”
Corry didn’t know if there is an early vote in a school election.
“Honestly, rather than muddying the waters, I am sorry, it is just not that far to drive outside the Village to vote. Like I said, there is a little inconvenience to people’s lives, but surely that is not a tremendous inconvenience, ” said Omohundro.
Director Bob McLeod stated, “I wouldn’t be against having it open only for voting day, but they want it open for early voting which lasts for two or three weeks and that just lets everybody in. I just think it is not acceptable and I don’t think we should do it.”
Omohundro agreed, “we are a gated community. We need to be a gated community all year long.”
Director Pam Avila agreed with Directors Omohundro and McLeod.
Director Belair stated, “we’ve been told in the past through studies that a big reason people move here is because of it being a gated community. So, like Tucker said, with most options we’re given in life. We have pros and cons. The fact that our residents asked for a more secure gate system in the last couple of years, especially, I believe we need to honor that and not open our gates for the election.”
Tucker Omohundro made a motion to not allow Vote Centers inside the Village. Gary Belair seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.8_HSV_Polling_Places_Memo
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