Preston to consider moving polling place to school
Preston — A town meeting will be held Sept. 13 on a proposal to move the town’s polling place for all elections and referendums to the Preston Veterans’ Memorial School, a move opposed by the two registrars of voters but promoted by other town officials citing safety and easier access.
Currently all elections are held in the lower level of Town Hall, where voters must walk or propel wheelchairs down a long, uncovered concrete ramp to reach the entrance and then work their way up the ramp to return to their vehicles.
The Board of Selectmen scheduled a town meeting for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 13 at the Preston Veterans’ Memorial School to discuss and vote on the proposal.
Registrars Cheryl Roberts and Desiree Majcher both said they oppose the move, citing concerns about safety of students, traffic issues with voters’ vehicles and school buses arriving at the same time and the need for registrars to access voter rolls to confirm registrations and handle questions and problems. They plan to voice their objections during the town meeting.
Majcher said the move would drive up the cost of elections, with more poll workers needed at the school and at Town Hall, where voting records are kept. She said Town Clerk Hattie Wucik would have to bring absentee ballots to the school, and runners might be needed to retrieve records.
First Selectman Robert Congdon said if voters approve the move at the town meeting, it would be done in time for the Nov. 6 election.
Former Republican Registrar Norman Gauthier submitted a petition last week signed by 40 residents, including several town officials, posing the question of whether the school should be made the polling place “for all town elections, primaries and referendums.”
Gauthier said he spent many elections inside Town Hall but spent much of the Aug. 14 primary in the parking lot watching as voters entered the building.
“In the primary I was in the parking lot watching people with canes and wheelchairs struggling with that ramp, and it was horrible, horrible,” Gauthier said. “And the area down by the door is too narrow for a person in a wheelchair to open the door. I watched that and said, ‘We can’t put up with this anymore.’”
Gauthier spoke to Superintendent Roy Seitsinger before circulating the petition to make sure school officials would support the move.
Seitsinger said Friday the school could accommodate elections in the gym, with plenty of space for voters and a segregated entrance on the Winiger Drive side of the building that would not interfere with school activities or student safety. Seitsinger said the entrance is level and handicapped accessible. He would coordinate with the town resident state troopers on traffic and safety issues.
Roberts said the safety issue of the long, uneven ramp at Town Hall is not an elections issue but an everyday problem for people coming to Town Hall. She said the town should upgrade the ramp rather than move the polling location.
“The handicapped ramp should not be an issue for four times a year, it should be for every day of the year,” Roberts said.
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