By John McNamara
New Britain’s Registrars of Voters are moving to change polling places in Districts 6 and 13 in time for an August 8th Primary and the November 8th Presidential Election.
Republican Peter Gostin and Democrat Juan Verdu have identified Angelico’s Cafe restaurant on East Main Street to replace the State Armory in Voting District 6 in the 25th Assembly District. Angelico’s is a stone’s throw away from the Armory location which is located at the corner of East Main and Smalley Streets.
In Voting District 13 in the 26th Assembly District the vacant Holy Cross School (Saint John Paul II) is the proposed site for a new polling station. Registrars have contacted the parish to use the school property at the corner of Farmington Avenue and Boulevard to replace the HRA (formerly Ben Franklin School) on Clinton Street.
In letters to Angelico’s and Holy Cross Church the registrars have proposed use of the new sites for $500 each for this year’s voting in what appears to be a temporary move
The pending relocations in two of the city’s 15 voting districts follows a March feasibility study on polling locations presented to the Common Council by the Registrars. The study backed off from a sweeping draft plan developed by Gostin and supported by Verdu that drew strong opposition and a City Hall protest, especially over shutting down on-site voting at the Graham and School Apartments where older and minority voters reside. Democrats argued that radical changes in polling places ahead of the Presidential election would impede voter access. The feasibility study identified the State Armory as the most costly of the polling places and cited parking issues at HRA, the city’s community action agency and Head Start center, as reasons for relocation.
The possible moves in this election cycle to Angelico’s in District 6 and Holy Cross (JPII School) for District 13 appear to be less controversial than what was proposed earlier this year. The draft plan, floated under the guise of saving the city money, raised voter suppression concerns because of the impact on locations in the center of the city. The Registrars, backing down from the original draft plan and any immediate changes, recommended “that any actions to merge, consolidate and/or move district lines and polling locations should be delayed until the 2017 election cycle” in their feasibility study. The relocations in District 6 and 13 are proposed for this year but may be extended.
Polling location changes are generally made only when district lines are re-drawn after the 10-year census that will next be implemented after 2020.