Conditions at the polls add to the challenge of improving voter turnout in a city where it is chronically depressed. Nationwide, just under 58 percent of eligible voters cast ballots on Nov. 6. In Lawrence, the turnout was 55 percent.
“It makes a difference,’’ Cheryl Clayburn, executive director of MassVOTE, a Boston nonprofit that promotes voter registration in historically disenfranchised communities, said about faulty equipment. “Our focus is on eliminating long lines. That’s one piece of it – faulty equipment.’’
Each of the 100 new voting booths would contain four cubicles, would be circular rather than linear, and would be made of metal or plastic rather than wood. Twenty-seven would be low, making them wheelchair accessible. They would be paid for out of last year’s budget surplus, leaving $5 million in the reserve fund.
On Tuesday, the City Council scheduled a hearing for March 5 on Maloney’s request for the new voting equipment. The council also scheduled a second hearing for that night on Maloney’s request for another $140,000 to pay for the poll workers, police details and other expenses for the four elections the city will run this year.
The four elections are the primary and general election to fill the U.S. Senate seat John Kerry gave up to become secretary of state, scheduled for April 30 and June 25, and the preliminary and general election for mayor and city council that will be held Sept. 17 and Nov. 5.