Local Seniors Question Polling Location Change

Councilors Larry Powers requested that Town Clerk Carla Vitale be invited to the next meeting of the Council to give her input on the relocation of the polling place at O’Connell Hall on Golden Drive to the Winthrop Senior Center.

The new polling location will be used for the first time for the Massachusetts Presidential Primary election on March 6.

The Council voted to relocate the polling place to the Senior Center at a meeting last June.

Peg Lyons, executive director of the Winthrop Housing Authority, addressed the issue during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“Several of our residents came in to our management office to have a discussion about a decision that was made by the prior Town Council to move the voting location from Golden Drive for Precinct 4 over to the Senior Center,” said Lyons.

Lyons noted that residents formulated a petition for reconsideration that was signed by 200 people.

“We respectfully request that you reconsider that decision and maybe not for this next election [March 6], but you reconsider it for the people who are going to be most affected by it – specifically our elderly and the handicapped who can walk over in to the community hall where they’re able to exercise their right to get dressed up, socialize, and go and cast a ballot.”

Delbrook Binnis, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War who lives on Golden Drive, said he first heard about the polling change in a Jan. 6 correspondence.

“I believe the elderly, including myself, and people older and more disabled than I am, will not be able to travel down to the Senior Center,” said Binnis. “I want to turn these 200 names in to you so you can take this under consideration so we can keep Golden Drive [as a polling location] for Precinct 4.”

Former Councilor Jeanne Maggio disputed that the previous Council took an official vote on the matter.

“The question is, was it the Council’s decision to do this, or it the Town Clerk’s decision to do this?” said Maggio.

“There was a vote taken on June 21, 2011,” responded Council President Peter Gill. “The motion was made by Councilor [Nicholas] DelVento and seconded by Vice-President [James] Letterie.”

Powers said the Council received a memo from Vitale in February, 2010, in which she sought to consolidate polling locations for the purpose of saving the town funds.

“Since the issue of dealing with voters and setting precincts up fall under the purview of the town clerk, before we do anything I believe we should hear from the town clerk directly and have her appear before the Council,” said Powers.

Councilor-at-Large Phil Boncore agreed with Powers.

“There is no ordinance that says the Town Council places the polling locations,” said Boncore. “It is the registrar of voters (town clerk) who places polling locations.”

Councilor James Letterie joined Powers in requesting to postpone action on the matter until Vitale could appear before the Council.

“It seems like everybody’s memory is getting a little hazy,” said Letterie. “I would like to take the time to look at a WCAT video of the June 21 meeting.

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