URBANA — Hundreds if not thousands of Champaign County voters will find themselves casting ballots at different polling places next year under new precinct boundaries submitted to the county board.
The board voted Thursday night to approve the new precinct map after a motion to defer acting until the August meeting was defeated by voice vote.
The primary reason for the precinct boundary changes — the first in the county in 10 years — is to rebalance the number of voters anticipated in a maximum voter turnout election, usually a presidential election, said County Clerk Gordy Hulten.
Some precincts have had so much population growth in the last 10 years that their boundaries had to be shrunk; others had to be expanded, Hulten said. Overall, the county will have one more precinct with the new map than it has had in the last 10 years.
"For example, City of Champaign 38 had grown by so much because of annexations by the city of Champaign that continuing to function as a combined polling place with City of Champaign 33 would cause us some demand problems in a presidential election," he said. "We had the same issue in St. Joseph, the same issue in Cunningham 23 (in Urbana) where we reduced the size of that precinct a little bit. Those areas where we've had high growth and where we anticipate high turnout for a maximum level election, we wanted to be able to reduce the demand there and shift it to some other places."
Under the new plan, Hulten said, City of Champaign precincts 33 and 38 are combined and split into three precincts. CC 38 will vote at the Windsor Road Christian Church, while CC 33 and Champaign Township Precinct 3 likely will vote at the Meadowbrook Christian Church, he said.
A new precinct west of Interstate 57, City of Champaign 39, would vote at the First Christian Church at Curtis and Staley roads, if arrangements with the church can be completed.
Another new precinct would be created in St. Joseph, known as St. Joseph 3. Voters there likely would vote at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.
Champaign Township Precinct 7 would be eliminated, primarily because of annexations by the city of Champaign.
The new precinct maps can be viewed online.
"This was a fun project that we started working on as soon as the state and federal (redistricting) maps were signed by the governor," Hulten said.
The maps were developed by Hulten's staff and the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, he said.
"It was a nice collaborative effort," Hulten said. "There's really nothing political about this. This is purely an election administration issue."
In townships where there are three or more precincts, the per-precinct voting age population will be: Champaign Township, 2,197; city of Champaign, 2,020; Cunningham Township (Urbana), 1,814; Ludlow Township, 1,426; Mahomet Township, 2,525; Rantoul Township, 1,879; St. Joseph Township, 1,959; Tolono Township, 1,756; and Urbana Township, 1,746.
It's not clear how many voters will be affected by the changes, Hulten said.
"Given everything else that is changing for voters in this upcoming set of elections, if we're ever going to make changes, it makes sense to make those changes now," he said. "We have to mail new voter registration cards to everyone in the county before the primary election (March 20, 2012) because their district numbers are changing anyway. So the new voter registration cards will have the new polling place information on them."
Hulten said it's important for the county board to act quickly on the new precinct boundaries because candidates for various offices can begin filing nominating papers on Sept. 6.
"That includes (precinct) committeemen, and the committeemen obviously have to know what precincts they're running in," he said.