EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 21, 2013

City may spend $100K on voting equipment

LAWRENCE — Hoping to avert the chaos that greeted voters at polling places on Nov. 6, the City Council is considering spending $100,000 to replace rickety voting booths and other dilapidated equipment in time for this year’s four elections.

Many of the 150 or so voting booths — including some that saw their first ballot when Franklin Roosevelt’s name was on it — failed to make it through the November presidential election, when several collapsed.

“The tables weren’t secured very well and, consequently, some of the tables just came out from under you,’’ City Clerk William Maloney, who oversees the city’s Election Division, said yesterday about the last election. “I don’t want to subject anyone to using those. It’s not right.”

In addition to 100 new voting booths, Maloney’s $100,000 plan would buy 72 tables where voters are checked in and out of polling places. Many of the tables also are close to collapse.

Councilor Daniel Rivera said Maloney’s request doesn’t go far enough to correct what’s wrong with voting in Lawrence. Rivera said he will oppose the request unless it also provides better training for poll workers.

“They can spend $100,00 on booths because there’s a need for that and I don’t want that to be an excuse as to why they run poor elections,’’ he said. “But at the same time, let’s make sure we’re doing some things differently than we did last time. Training was a part of (the problem). Let’s get the equipment we need, but I’ll vote no if we don’t get (the mandate for better training).’’

Dilapidated voting booths and u@text1:ntrained poll workers were two of the challenges voters faced on Nov. 6. Some polling places ran out of pens to mark ballots. At the Rollins School, up to 35 percent of voters who cast ballots were listed as inactive, including many who protested that they had returned the census cards the city mails out to verify voters live where they say. At the Guilmette School at 7 p.m., one hour before the polling place was scheduled to close, residents were in a long line, expecting to wait hours to vote.

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