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April 22, 2013

Saturday voting floated in town

Danvers: Town Meeting member also proposes shorter polling hours

Danvers should move its local elections to Saturdays and shorten the hours during which polls are open, Town Meeting member John Zavaglia says.

Saturday voting would make it more convenient to vote and boost turnout, which has been sagging in recent years, Zavaglia said. The move could even save money with the shortened hours, though some say those savings would be eaten up by overtime for Department of Public Works custodians and town clerk staff.

“It’s so much easier,” Zavaglia said of the idea of Saturday voting.

Zavaglia has submitted a citizen’s petition to change the day and times when residents vote, a measure that will be on the warrant for the upcoming annual Town Meeting.

Zavaglia proposes that town elections be on the first Saturday in May, rather than the first Tuesday in May. The petition would change voting hours from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the theory that eight hours is plenty of time to get to the polls. Parents shuttling kids to games on Saturdays could vote either before or after the kids play, he said.

“I bumped into an 84-year-old lady at Market Basket,” Zavaglia said, “and I told her what I wanted to do, and she said: ‘It’s a fine idea.’”

Earlier this month, selectmen Chairman Bill Clark said his board voted 4-0, with Selectman Mike Powers absent, to support the move, though there may be changes in wording as the article moves to the Finance Committee for its recommendation.

Some selectmen favor longer polling hours, Zavaglia said.

The move would not affect state and federal elections, which are held Tuesdays.

“It will help people get more access,” Clark said of the idea.

The cost to move the election to Saturday would be minimal, Clark said, though Town Clerk Joseph Collins said “there would be an increase in the cost” due to overtime. Town elections cost $5,500 apiece, a figure that does not include costs for DPW overtime. Poll workers hired to work elections are paid a flat fee per hour and are not paid overtime.

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