Polling places under review before this fall's elections; McLaughlin school near limit

Polling places under review before this fall's elections; McLaughlin school near limit

CUMBERLAND - So many citizens are registered to cast ballots at the McLaughlin Cumberland Hill School, Precinct 803, that Town Clerk Sandra Giovanelli is forced to seek out a new polling place to split up the voters come this September's primary.

The town's Board of Canvassers is bound by state Board of Election rules on this that set a 3,500 voter maximum per polling place. To date, 3,490 are registered, Giovanelli says.

Options discussed during a canvassers meeting Friday included using the Cumberland Hill Fire Station on Mendon Road, senior citizen housing on Flat Street, and the Emmanuel Church on Nate Whipple Highway.

All come with drawbacks, however. Some aren't physically within the voting precinct, another state no-no local canvassers are grappling with.

State election inspectors made the rounds in Cumberland earlier this year to identify a series of upgrades needed at nearly all 12 of the current polling places in town.

It's part of a statewide push to make voting places more accessible, from literally opening up more doorways, to adding more directional signs to repairing parking lots.

Cumberland has approximately 25,411 registered voters, with the smallest polling place, Mercymount Country Day School, Precinct 804, with 524 registered voters, and the largest precinct at McLaughlin school.

Giovanelli also noted this week that getting ready for an election five months from now includes recruiting new poll workers. She has openings for supervisors who earn a $150 stipend for the day, and clerks and moderators who are paid $175. This year, in addition to training, the poll workers must pass a test, she said.

While most of the cited polling place problems can be easily addressed, says Giovanelli, some will see the town apply for a waiver.

Changing polling places is always Giovanelli's last choice, she said, because notifications must be mailed and even then voters can be confused.

She's looking for public spaces that will continue to be available year after year rather than renting storefronts, she said, to avoid displacing voters from one election to the next.

Looking at the town's polling places, the state's report said:

801 Chimney Hill Apartments community room - Open main entrance or post a door monitor; prop open interior doors.

802 Cumberland High School cafeteria - Add extra signs at the front of schools directing voters to back lot entrance.

803 McLaughlin Cumberland Hill School gym - Room is fine but the number of voters is at the limit, plus parking is tight and set-up a little too compact.

804 Mercymount Country Day School cafeteria - Out of precinct and may not close on election days.

805 McCourt Middle School cafeteria - Add two handicapped-parking spaces.

806 Bear Hill Village - Still to be inspected.

807 Community School gym - Out of precinct, but needs more signs directing voters to the rear and temporary handicapped-parking spaces.

808 Diamond Hill Ski Lodge hall - Parking lot must be paved, ramps must be fixed, handicapped-parking spaces needed. May be other issues and a re-inspection is pending.

809 Northern Town Garage bays - Safety concerns for this "working garage" must be addressed, handicapped-parking spaces needed.

810 Fatima Parish Hall - Add handicapped-parking spaces, more directional signs and prop open doors.

811 One Mendon Road community room - Unlock main entrance or employ a door monitor, open interior doors, close shades to ensure privacy.

812 Cumberland Public Library Hayden Center - Extra directional signs at front of complex and "vote here" signs at ramp entrance.

State inspectors also looked at the North Cumberland Middle School cafeteria as an alternative but noted the elevator to bypass the stairs wasn't operating.

There are also cracks in the parking lot from the handicapped-parking spaces to the entrance and the distance is "excessive" at 451 feet, while the distance for all others is 107 feet.