The 1,900 people who are registered to vote at the Kamper Park voting precinct will now be voting at a new location across the street – the Hardy Street Baptist Church Youth Center on the corner of Hardy and 17th Avenue. In years past, the structure served as the Burger House.
During Monday’s meeting of the Forrest County Board of Supervisors, the board approved and adopted the recommendation of District 1 Election Commissioner Gentry Mordica to relocate the precinct and rename it the Hardy Street Precinct.
Mordica appeared before the board in May to suggest the move, citing the need for a larger facility for voters in the district who were at the time voting in a small room at the Hattiesburg Zoo.
“In District 1, our largest precinct is at Kamper Park,” Mordica said at the time. “We have 1,900 voters in that precinct, but it’s also the smallest venue we have as a voting precinct in the district – the largest number of voters meeting in the smallest venue.
“We’re limited in the area because it’s a neighborhood area and there aren’t a lot a lot of public buildings, which limits the places to vote in a public area.”
At the time, Mordica stressed that the proposed move had nothing to do with the people at Kamper Park.
“They’ve been very gracious and very helpful, especially Lori Banchero, who we’ve worked with. They’ve always had someone there to open the facility and help in every way. The room is just too small.”
Mordica also mentioned the closeness of the voting machines.
“At some point, we’re going to run into a privacy issue,” he said. “Your vote is supposed to be private, but it may not be because you are machine to machine to machine.”
The board waited until now to make the move official, mentioning the need to get past the August primary election and the November general election so as not to confuse people about where they were to vote.
According to Mordica, The Hardy Street facility is similar to other voting precincts in District 1. It has an electrical supply for the voting machines, as well as a kitchen area and bathroom facilities, and ample parking.
Mordica said he believes the proximity of the structure to the current voting precinct will alleviate a lot of confusion.
The church will receive a reimbursement of $150 each time the facility is used, to be paid by the county. The agreement with the church is for a 10-year period.
The Circuit Clerk’s office will issue new voter registration cards to voters in that district to inform them of the change.
“It’s literally right across the street; I don’t think it will be a problem,” Mordica said.