SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

October 23, 2013

School board vs. registrars -- no decision

PEABODY — The School Committee and the Board of Registrars disagreed last night on whether voting should continue in the Peabody schools. But they did it politely.

On the other hand, in a one-hour-plus meeting, nothing was really settled except that no change will come prior to the upcoming Nov. 5 city election. So, vote in the same old place. For his part, registrar and City Clerk Tim Spanos noted that June is the deadline to rearrange voting for the 2014 election.

School board members, who believe state law gives them control over the buildings, made the case that voting detracts from the mission of the schools and even represents a threat to students because of heavy traffic and strangers entering the building. Currently, 11 of 19 polling places are in schools.

The registrars, meanwhile, stressed the disruption they would face in finding alternate places for voting, suggesting it would cost money and present an obstacle, discouraging people from exercising their franchise.

“I don’t think anybody here is looking to ram anything down anybody’s throat,” said School Committee member Jarrod Hochman.

“What I’ve been asking for is to have a discussion,” said colleague Ed Charest. While he recalled hearing complaints from school principals about the burden of turning parts of the schools over for voting, he stressed that he wanted to hear the registrars’ ideas.

“Can we get you to change your ideas?” Mike Moutsoulas, a registrar, responded, smiling.

Charest referenced traffic problems, noting, “I know people who don’t like going to the school to vote because they go when school is getting out. They hate that.”

“I’m sure,” Spanos said.

Hochman asked if the Northshore Mall could be a good spot for voting, perhaps with a wing designated the only location citywide. The mall might embrace the idea, he suggested.

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