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A voting vacuum

Published June 20. 2014 4:00AM

The New London City Council, or at least four members, acted imprudently in rushing to meet an arbitrary deadline in an effort to boost the number of voting districts in the city. In their rush, they passed an illegal resolution.

Last week the council's Public Welfare Committee adopted a resolution to expand the city from three voting districts to six, returning to a time when this small city had many districts. The principle advocate of the change, Councilor Efrain Dominguez, contends too few voting places make it difficult for some urban dwellers, particularly those without cars, to get to the polls.

Yet the evidence appears anecdotal. Is it true people are not voting due to inconvenience? There has been no hearing, no comparison of past voting numbers - when the city had more districts - with current turnouts. One thing is certain, more voting places would make every election more expensive.

When the city attorney advised the council that it would take an ordinance, not a simple resolution, to make the change, Mr. Dominguez offered an alternative - keep the three districts for now, but add voting places, with three in District 1, two in District 2 and one in District 3. That resolution passed Monday on a 4-3 vote.

One problem, it's illegal, ruled the Office of Secretary of the State. State law allows one polling place per district. This makes sense. Otherwise, a council could stuff a politically favorable district with multiple voting places and put other districts at a disadvantage.

Most troubling was the rush to push the flawed proposal through the council. Councilor Michael Passero had moved to send the matter back to committee to get questions answered about the feasibility, legality and cost of the proposal. This sensible suggestion was rejected 4-3, the majority - Mr. Dominguez and councilors Erica L. Richardson, Anthony Nolan and Wade A. Hyslop Jr. - pushed forward without adequate information.

The issue is dead for now. Under state law there is not enough time to add to the voting districts for the current election cycle. That will allow the chance to do things right, rather than fast, which has certainly not been the case with this issue so far.

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