North Casper residents will no longer have to leave their neighborhood to cast a ballot.
The former Roosevelt High School will once again be used as a polling place for people living in north Casper. About 400 residents who used to vote at the facility were re-routed to the Central Wyoming Fairgrounds after the school shut its doors in 2016.
But last spring, the Casper Housing Authority purchased the property — located on the corner of North Wolcott and K streets — for $430,000, with the intention of creating a one-stop shop for veterans’ services.
“We called them and asked if they would mind having polling or voting in there like it used to be, and they were more than happy to do so,” Natrona County Clerk Renea Vitto said Monday.
Lori Burns, the housing authority’s development director, said the group strives to serve the community and knows the former school was “greatly needed” as a polling place.
The Mills Community Center on Wasatch Avenue will also be set as a polling place for Mills residents who previously voted at Mountain View Elementary, explained Vitto. The school is set to close at the end of this academic year.
Explaining that the community center is located near the school, Vitto said she does not expect this change will have a significant effect on voters.
Both matters will be publicly discussed March 20 during a Natrona County Commissioners meeting.
“I think [north Casper residents] will be happy to have their polling place back,” said Vitto.
The clerk explained that many north Casper residents using public transportation found it inconvenient to vote at the fairgrounds because the new location was further away.
Natrona County Commission Chairman John Lawson said he’s also expecting the community will be pleased by the change as he heard there was “considerable concern” about the fairgrounds location.
Some north Casper residents worried in 2016 that losing Roosevelt High School as a polling place would depress voter turnout.
“For the neighborhood and everybody it was convenient,” Steve Schauss previously told the Star-Tribune. “Now they just don’t vote.”
Others residents didn’t think the switch would be a serious problem. Pastor Steve Rochin of SetFree church in north Casper said at the time that none of his parishioners had expressed concerns.
College of Charleston political science chair H. Gibbs Knotts has researched the impact of polling place location on voter turnout and found that people were significantly less likely to vote the farther they had to travel.
“These costs impact lower-income folks at higher rates,” Knotts said. “It’s just easier for somebody who has a higher socioeconomic status to have the transportation, or be able to juggle their schedule, than somebody who is on the clock or has transportation challenges.”