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UNT Greek Life Center approved for early voting and Election Day polling location

UNT Greek Life Center approved for early voting and Election Day polling location

UNT Greek Life Center approved for early voting and Election Day polling location
March 06
17:06 2019

In a 6-0 vote on Tuesday, the Denton City Council approved the UNT Greek Life Center as an early voting and Election Day voting location for the city council elections. With their vote, they also approved Robson Ranch as an early and Election Day voting location along with eight other polling locations recommended by city staff.

District 4 councilperson John Ryan was not present at Tuesday’s meeting.

This vote comes after the issue was postponed at the Feb. 5 meeting following some controversy surrounding conflicts of interest for At Large Place 5 councilperson Deb Armintor and At Large Place 6 councilperson Paul Meltzer. Armintor is a UNT professor and Meltzer is the spouse of a UNT professor.

Ultimately, both Armintor and Meltzer decided against following the advisory opinion issued by the city’s ethics board and voted in favor of putting a polling location at UNT for early voting and Election Day voting.

“I’ve lost a lot of sleep over this,” Meltzer said. “The citizens have a right to expect me to vote unless there’s a darn good reason not to. We have an ethics ordinance to try and prevent unethical behavior or the appearance of it.”

Meltzer said that he and UNT have no financial interests in a polling place and that he considered the ethics board’s advisory opinion and sought out advice from local attorneys from across the political spectrum.

“They all agree that this idea that a councilmember shouldn’t vote on a polling place is ridiculous, but they’re all over the map on what I should do,” Meltzer said. “If you feel I’m behaving unethically, you can make a complaint. That’s the process. Right now, I’m going to serve my constituents by deliberating and voting for voting.”

Following Meltzer’s comments, interim city secretary Rachel Wood gave a presentation to the council regarding potential polling locations. There were two locations on or near UNT campus that were proposed: The UNT Greek Life Center and the Denton Wesley Foundation.

Only the UNT Greek Life Center could serve as a polling location for both early voting and Election Day voting. The Denton Wesley Foundation could only serve as an Election Day polling location.

“I think both of you should be able to vote and not be in jeopardy,” District 3 councilperson Don Duff said to Meltzer and Armintor following Wood’s presentation. “At this point, I don’t think that’s really something that you need to worry about. I’ll support you.”

Duff then asked that early voting and polling locations at Robson Ranch are considered if the council votes on polling locations at UNT.

Several members of the public spoke at the meeting in support of a polling place at UNT. Many were UNT students and city council candidates Emily Meisner of District 4, George Ferrie of District 1 and Matt Farmer of District 3 also spoke.

“As we know, the people that go to school at UNT are people that oftentimes work here, they live here, they spend money here, they contribute to our arts scene here,” Farmer said. “So it is important that they get to vote here as well. They’re just as much a part of the community as anyone else.”

Welton King, an SGA senator for the UNT College of Business studying finance, spoke at the meeting and said UNT students have the right to vote.

“We should facilitate that process as much as we can,” King said. “Come election time, polling places should be where the people are.”

Following members of the public speaking, Mayor Chris Watts also read the names of people who submitted white cards signaling their support for the issue but who did not want to speak.

Meltzer made the motion to approve the three early voting locations approved by the county in addition to a fourth location, Robson Ranch, and the eight Election Day polling locations recommended by city staff. Additionally, a location at the UNT Greek Life Center and Robson Ranch was approved.

Before the city council voted, Watts voiced his opinion about the issue, saying the process got derailed and that TWU was left out of the conversation.

“I don’t have any problem with putting a polling location at the University of North Texas,” Watts said. “What I do have a problem with is we became selective. We didn’t look at the community holistically, so I fully expect moving forward from this place, we will do just that.”

Watts also said he was “frustrated about the politicization of this process.”

Armintor disagreed with him and said that she is pleased with how this process turned out.

“I think it’s important that the public is communicating about this,” Armintor said. “I think it’s important that people feel passionate about it on all sides. I’m thrilled that people are out here.”

Early voting for the city council elections will take place from April 22-27 and April 29-30, while Election Day is May 4.

Featured Image: The Greek Life Center will act as an on-campus polling place for the upcoming city council elections. Image by: Will Baldwin.

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Lizzy Spangler

Lizzy Spangler

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