Groton plans public hearing on voting district consolidation

Groton - A public hearing will be held next month to present residents with a proposal to alter and consolidate the town's voting districts.

The Town Council on Tuesday tentatively scheduled the hearing for March 19.

Under a plan that Democratic Registrar David Rose said was motivated by a desire by the town to reduce costs, voting district lines would be altered to reduce the number from eight to seven.

Rose said it costs on average $25,000 to open up the eight polling places for a townwide election and more than $2,000 alone to hire poll workers for each polling place.

The maps presented to the council Tuesday by Town Clerk Betsy Moukawsher show that under the proposal, Districts 4 and 5, in the northwest section of town, would be combined to form a new District 4. District 1 would be expanded into a portion of what was District 8, but which under the new plan would become District 7.

"The whole thing is being done to try and save money," Rose said. "That's the driving force behind this."

In addition to money spent for poll workers, Rose said there are also costs associated with printing ballots and tabulators for the computerized machines.

Council member Deb Peruzzotti said she would like to see even more consolidation and asked for a study that explores other options.

"For the size of our town, the number of districts seems unnecessary," she said.

Rose said the idea of combining the city districts, 2 and 3, into one was discussed. But that idea was thwarted by changes last year to the state House Districts 40 and 41. The new district lines split Districts 2 and 3.

Rose said there are also logistical considerations to moving a voting district, such as the capacity of a polling place to accommodate an increase in voters. While most polling places would stay the same under the plan, the combination of Districts 4 and 5 would eliminate Charles Barnum Elementary School as a polling place in favor of the former William Seely school.

The number of registered voters per district under the new plan ranges from a low of 2,200 in District 2 to a high of 3,600 in District 6, the Mystic area.

Moukawsher said should the changes pass, the Representative Town Meetings would be shifted accordingly. Representatives in the RTM are determined by a formula that takes into account the number of registered voters in a particular district. The number of representatives cannot exceed 45.

g.smith@theday.com

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