New London City Council decides to add polling places, not voting districts

New London - By a split vote and after an animated discussion Monday night, the City Council night passed an amended resolution to increase the number of polling locations in the city from three to six.

"My focus is to give the opportunity for everyone to be able to vote," said Councilor Efrain Dominguez, who proposed the resolution. "One vote here tonight can make a difference. One vote in any election can make a difference."

Indeed, one vote made all the difference Monday: the resolution passed 4-3, with Councilors Martin T. Olsen, Michael Passero and Michael J. Tranchida voting in opposition.

Last week, the council's Public Welfare Committee approved the first version of the resolution, which would have expanded the city from three voting districts to six. But Law Director Jeffrey T. Londregan determined the resolution violated the city charter - voting districts can only be changed by ordinance, not resolution, he said.

So, to comply with the charter, Dominguez on Monday proposed an amendment that changed the language of the resolution to establish six voting locations, while keeping the current three voting districts unchanged.

Under the approved resolution, District 1, the city's largest - stretching from its northern boarder to downtown - will have three separate polling locations. District 2, which encompasses the center of the city, will have two polling places. District 3, which includes the southern most end of the city, will keep its single polling place.

The new polling locations will be determined by the registrars of voters. The new locations must be chosen, and notices mailed to all registered voters, by July 11 in order to comply with a state law that requires it to be done at least 31 days before the Aug. 12 primary election.

Democratic Registrar of Voters William Giesing told the council Monday that he believes the additional voting locations will cost more than the $15,000 provided in the resolution.

He also said he would have to check with attorneys for the Secretary of State's office to determine if that office will allow the changes to be made.

During debate on the resolution, Passero proposed that the council send it back to the Public Welfare Committee for further discussion and development.

He said he was concerned that the cost of the resolution and the feasibility of its implementation had not been thoroughly thought out.

"It boggles the mind the things that haven't been considered here," he said. "I admire Councilor Dominguez's passion behind this, but it is not ready."

Passero's amendment to refer the matter back to committee failed, 4-3.

He then proposed an amendment that would eliminate from the resolution a provision that any referendums pending or proposed before Oct. 1 would be placed on the ballot for the November election.

A referendum petition against the council's authorization of bonding $1.1 million is pending before the council, and a petition seeking a referendum on the city budget has been filed with the city clerk's office for verification.

"We don't even get to have a debate on it, we're deciding now that we're going to put a referendum on our general government budget off until halfway through the budget year," Passero said. "Why are we mixing that up with the admirable intention of (expanded voter access)? Why are we putting that in here?"

That amendment also failed, 4-3.

c.young@theday.com

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