EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

November 7, 2012

Salem officials to reconsider redistricting

Long lines had some voters fuming

SALEM — Long lines of disgruntled voters at the polls Tuesday have prompted town officials to consider redistricting for the second time in two years.

The proposal comes only two months after Salem began using four polling places instead of six.

But waits of more than an hour on Election Day at Mary Fisk School and the Ingram Senior Center led to the potential change.

Town moderator Christopher Goodnow said yesterday he will be consulting with selectmen to come up with a solution.

"I think there are a variety of things we are going to have to look at," Goodnow said. "There are no super easy fixes."

Selectmen's Chairman Patrick Hargreaves said the board would consider redistricting at its meeting Dec. 10.

"We will look at what happened and how it happened," Hargreaves said.

Goodnow and Hargreaves said some voters complained about the long wait and questioned the recent change in polling places.

Goodnow proposed the change in 2010 because of logistical constraints at some polling places, including Town Hall, which was too cramped and had limited handicapped accessibility.

"We couldn't comply with many of the New Hampshire municipal requirements," Goodnow said.

The move was endorsed by selectmen and approved by voters at Town Meeting in March 2011,

The overcrowding problem was obvious last winter when controversial ballot issues such as adoption of curbside trash pickup led to congestion and long lines outside Town Hall.

Difficulty in finding enough poll workers also made it more feasible to reduce the number of locations, Goodnow said.

Starting with the state primary Sept. 11, residents who traditionally cast ballots at Town Hall and Barron School began voting at the senior center. Residents who voted at Soule School — the town's least-used polling place — began casting ballots at Mary Fisk School.

Hargreaves said although selectmen will have to consider the options, it's unlikely the town would return to six polling places.

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