Polling place changes could affect Councilman Jackson in recall

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Embattled Providence City Councilman Kevin Jackson already faces an uphill battle if he wants to avoid being recalled from office on May 2.

The Democrat is currently facing felony charges for allegedly embezzling funds from a youth sports organization he co-founded and for misusing campaign money. (He has pleaded not guilty.) More than 2,000 constituents from Ward 3, which he represents, signed the recall petition that forced the May 2 special election. And he barely escaped a write-in challenge in 2014, the last time his name was on the ballot.

But the Providence Board of Canvassers’ decision to remove the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School on Camp Street from the recall election’s list of polling places means Jackson’s base – the Mount Hope neighborhood – will be forced to vote at a location that hasn’t been used in the past: the Vincent Brown Recreation Center on Doyle Avenue.

“We are not using the schools because they are in session and it is a safety issue,” Kathy Placencia, the administrator for the Providence Board of Canvassers, said in a statement. “Additionally, Rhode Island state law allows local [Boards of Canvassers] to combine districts during special elections.”

In Jackson’s hotly contested 2014 race, the councilman bested write-in candidate Marcus Mitchell 437 to 187 at King School, despite only winning the overall race by 55 votes.

The King School isn’t the only polling place change for the May 2 election, but it is the only one where a new venue is being used.

Placencia said residents who normally vote at Nathan Bishop Middle School will vote at the Church of the Redeemer on Savoy Street, an existing polling place in Ward 3. Mitchell defeated Jackson 854 to 570 at Bishop in 2014, while Jackson won the low-turnout church location 280-151.

Summit Commons, which Jackson narrowly lost in 2014, is still being used in the recall election.

No one else is on the ballot on May 2. Voters will just be asked to vote up or down on Jackson’s political future. If he is recalled, a special election to replace him will then be scheduled.

Jackson is still challenging the attempted recall. The R.I. Board of Elections has scheduled a hearing on the matter for Tuesday at 6 p.m.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan