964 Boone County residents will vote in a different location in April

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COLUMBIA - Tom Kowalewski lives in El Chaparral. When he received the sample ballot and information for the upcoming general municipal election, he was surprised by what he read. 

"We noticed that it said that we would be voting in The Crossing. I was certain that was just an error, that they've made a mistake,” he said.

Before their polling location changed, residents from El Chaparral voted less than one mile way from their houses. Now, they will have to travel five miles to get to The Crossing. 

Kowalewski is one of 964 Boone County voters told by the county clerk they will have to go to a different polling place for next week's election.

"The reason that I had been given was that they had issues in the past elections where ballots had been confused and county residents got city ballots," Kowalewski said. 

Boone County Clerk Taylor Burks said changes in polling places are not unusual for smaller elections.

"This is a common practice, for the county clerk to decrease the number of polling places," Burks said. "And then we add polling places back when we have the August and November, when turnout is usually much higher."

Burks said the change in polling locations is a response to the increase in voter turnout at The American Legion Hall. 

"We have Third Ward voters that would be voting there, and we just got to the max number of voters at that precinct," Burks said. "It’s not an ideal situation but some county precincts are assigned to the nearest county voting location, which is The Crossing Church.”

Burks said he groups precincts together based on information from past comparable elections, to estimate possible voter turnout. 

"My benchmark is between 350 to 500 expected voters at a polling place,” Burks said. 

For the upcoming local election, the county clerk office expects a turnout of between 11 and 16 percent of all 115,000 Boone County residents registered to vote. 

However, Kowalewski is concerned the change in polling location for residents from El Chaparall could affect voter turnout. 

"Transportation is an issue. I mean, I see people walking down WW, going to work because, obviously, they don’t have transportation that is readily available to them," Kowalewski said.

For him, the county clerk's office should make it easier for people to participate in elections. 

"We are living in a country where we are having trouble getting people to get out and vote," Kowalewski said. "I don't think what you try to do under those circumstances is make it more difficult for them to vote."

Burks said 41 polling places will be opened for the April 3 election. People can find out where to vote on the county clerk office's website.

Volunteers from the country clerk's office will be available to offer rides for people to get to polling locations. Transportation assistance can be requested at the office by calling 573-886-4295.