The Registrar of Voters in Newington wants to reduce the number of polling places from 8 to 3. Local Democratic lawmakers say it will make it harder for people to vote.
“I cannot imagine having to cram more than two and a half times more voters into parking lots and gymnasiums that were not designed to accommodate this many people,” Deb O’Loughlin said.
O’Loughlin is a Newington resident and a poll worker.
“There will absolutely be more congestion and longer lines to vote, “she said.
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The proposed change means the average of about 2,700 voters per polling place would increase to roughly 7,100 voters per polling place.
“I firmly believe many full-time employees will find it difficult if they have to wait in long lines and unfortunately many will not be able to wait, effectively denying their right to vote, or choosing between voting and their job responsibilities,” O’Loughlin said.
The Newington Town Council still has to weigh in on the matter and vote to accept the reduction or make their own changes.
“Voting is a right. It is not a privilege for some and a hardship for others,” Newington Town Councilor Kim Radda said.
Radda says it will impede voter access to the polls.
“I will vote no on this proposal as it stands,” Radda said.
In a statement, Newington Mayor Beth Delbuono said:
“We will assess the staffing needs at each polling location as well as parking at each site. We won’t let national politics and rhetoric into our local decisions.”
“Maybe the surface this looks like voter suppression or maybe the intent is they believe saving $38,000 is worth all of this difficulty this will cause on the Newington voters, but the consequence of this will be voter suppression,” Rep. Gary Turco said.
Turco says they can’t say what motivated the registrar of voters to make the proposal.
Theresa Avey, the Republican registrar of voters, declined to say why they made the proposal.
“The consequences of it will be crowded polling places that will make it more difficult for Newington residents to vote and disproportionately hurt seniors and people that are disabled,” Turco said.