Council to Issue Final Decision on Polling Location on May 1

The end is in sight for the polling location issue that has now had two extensive public airings already this year.

Winthrop seniors came to Tuesday night’s Council meeting once again requesting that the Precinct 4 polling location be returned to O’Connell Hall on Golden Drive from the Winthrop Senior Center [facility] which will be used for the Massachusetts Presidential Primary on March 6.

After hearing the seniors’ concerns, the councilors decided to hold a public hearing on May 1 and pledged to vote on the matter at that meeting.

According to a document provided by Town Clerk Carla Vitale, the “moving of the polling location” has been a topic of discussion among town officials since October, 26. 2009.

Last June the Council voted 9-0 to move the Precinct 4 polling location to the Senior Center. Vitale followed through on implementing the polling change and it will be in effect for the March 6 election. But many seniors, citing convenience, accessibility, and tradition, have expressed dissatisfaction with the council’s decision to move the polling location.

The issue continues to provoke action on a few fronts. It prompted former Council President Jeffrey Turco to speak out at Tuesday’s meeting about the official timeline of events and correspondences leading up to the previous Council’s vote. Turco also clarified that the reason the Cummings School wasn’t used for electionswas that officials didn’t want to cancel school days [elections are held on Tuesdays].

One senior, Dottie D’Onofrio, said that she intends to start a petition drive asking the Council to reinstate O’Connell Hall as a polling place. “I’ll be presenting the petitions to the Council before their May 1 meeting,” D’Onofrio told the Transcript.

Councilors indicated that they will be seeking feedback from residents on the issue in the next two months. Meanwhile, Precinct 4 Councilor Craig Mael said after the meeting that he will be visiting the Senior Center on Election Day (March 6) on an exploratory mission.

Mael just took office in January but his constituents have approached him about the issue on several occasions.

“Surprisingly enough I have had many people come up and comment to me about this voting issue, not just people from Housing,” said Mael. “I’ve been voting for almost 40 years, for a number of years at the Highlands School and the Dalrymple School and then O’Connell Hall,” said Mael.

Mael said he recognizes the importance of the polling location issue to the seniors and other residents, but there are many issues to tackle.

“This is certainly a very important matter but we’ll be facing other issues like putting together next year’s town budget and the ability to maintain the town on an even keel,” said Mael. “I think we’ll have the voting poll issued resolved by June 1 and the real issues are the financial well-being of the town.”

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