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Local News

October 9, 2013

School Committee invites registrars to discuss polling places

PEABODY — The School Committee has asked the Board of Registrars to come for a visit to hash out differences regarding voting in the schools.

Member Brandi Carpenter, who first proposed removing ballot boxes from the schools, thanked the registrars for their recent letter that responded mostly unfavorably to the idea. She suggested a face-to-face meeting “rather than sit here and just do letters back and forth.” Her colleagues backed that notion, suggesting a 6 p.m. gathering prior to the next regular School Committee meeting, which is scheduled for Oct. 22.

“I think it would be very good to have that kind of a meeting,” said Beverley Griffin-Dunne.

The registrar’s letter offered to meet the board partway, suggesting, for example, moving Ward 4, precinct 3, Ward 5, precincts 1 and 2, and Ward 6, precinct 1, to nearby temples and churches. Elsewhere, registrar Judith Blodgett wrote, “Relocation of all 10 polling precincts in question would impact over 18,000 voters, with a projected cost of up to $10,000. ... After considering the above factors, the Board feels that a relocation effort of this magnitude is an impractical solution to the safety concerns raised by the School Committee.”

Carpenter had cited worries over strangers on school grounds and increased traffic as two major reasons to send the voters elsewhere. In addition, she noted the disruption caused by multiple elections this past school year. Members, including Dave McGeney, have made it clear that despite having the authority to order the change, according to the city’s lawyers, there is no intention to “ram it down the city’s throat.”

Last night, Carpenter also complained about yesterday’s Salem News editorial, which backed the registrars’ position.

“I find it highly insulting that the Salem News opinion article would say that we do not respect the democratic process.”

This apparently referred to the opening of the editorial, which urged both parties to find agreement on keeping the polling places at the schools “to save taxpayers money, to keep voting sites convenient and consistent, and to nurture and respect the democratic process.”

Alan Burke can be reached at aburke@salemnews.com.

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