Happy Election Day! We’ve made our endorsements (Orange County, Raleigh municipal races, and, most critically, the NC Supreme Court), but today we want to focus on something else.
Too many of our polling sites aren’t accessible to people who walk, roll, or take the bus. Even though the entire point of a voting precinct is for it to be in your neighborhood, we’ve chosen to locate many of our voting sites—which are also our schools, churches, and community centers—in places that can only be easily accessed by car. Every election, volunteers waste countless hours—and gas—giving rides to committed voters when they should be persuading more people to vote.
To illustrate this, TBB looked up the Walk Score, Bike Score, and Transit Score (when available) for each of Orange County’s 41 precincts. (Here’s our spreadsheet!) This method confirms our intuition that too many of our election sites are located in places that are far from transit lines, and with poor or nonexistent sidewalks. Below, you’ll find our rough guide to the sorry state of our polling sites.
Related: Here are the polling places in Chapel Hill that you can get to on the bus.
Life is a Highway: Polling Sites with a Walk Score of 0 (8 of 41)
Sites: Caldwell, Carr, Coles Store, Eno, Orange Grove, St. Mary’s, Tolare, White Cross
All of these sites are in rural Orange County, so it’s not surprising that they can only be accessed by car. We’ll give them a pass.
The Walk Score of Shame: Polling Sites with a Walk Score under 10 (9 of 41)
Sites: Cedar Grove, Cheeks, Grady Brown, Colonial Heights, Damascus, Patterson, Hogan Farms, North Carrboro, Hillsborough North.
While some of these sites are in rural Orange, more than half are in or near Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Four of these sites are CCHSS schools (Smith Middle, Carrboro High, Chapel Hill, Morris Grove).
Room for improvement: Polling Sites with a Walk Score between 10 and 50 (13 of 41)
Sites: Efland, Rogers Eubanks, St. John, Kings Mill, Weaver Dairy Satellite, Hillsborough East, Westwood, Glenwood, Cedar Falls, West Hillsborough, Weaver Dairy, Dogwood Acres, Hillsborough.
Four of these sites are in Hillsborough, showing that walkability isn’t something that’s only the domain of southern Orange county. We have five more CCHSS schools (McDougle, Frank Porter Graham, Scroggs, Raskhis, and East Chapel Hill High School). Some of these (Scroggs) are punished unfairly due to their distance from neighborhood services, but others (FPG) again show that we’ve chosen to make our schools inaccessible to people who walk or take the bus.
Walk the Vote: Polling Sites with a Walk Score over 50 (10 of 41)
Sites: Eastside, Estes Hills, UNC, Ridgefield, East Franklin, OWASA, Coker Hills, Carrboro, Town Hall, Northside
Just under a quarter of our polling sites are truly accessible to people who walk, roll, or bus. You’ll note that while most of the sites are in downtown Chapel Hill or Carrboro, a few are located in the Blue Hill district, which, thanks to the density of grocery stores and other services, has the potential to become a walkable, bikeable neighborhood.