Council Calls for Special Meeting to Address Inequitable Polling Locations

Typically, before any election, the City Council has to approve the standard “warrant” call for an election and the polling places that are set, but the coming Primary Election on Sept. 1 is anything but normal, and the Council on Monday reserved their approval until after a special meeting later this week on the locations of the polling places.

The polling places have been radically adjusted for in-person voting on Sept. 1, and likely will be for the November election in the fall. For September, the locations set by the Election Commission have been whittled down to Everett High School, the Connolly Center, the Rec Center and Pope John High. The effort is intended to use fewer poll workers, consolidate the precincts in large spaces and encourage mail-in or early voting.

However, numerous members of the Council on Monday felt the locations of the polling places was inequitable, and called for a special meeting this Thursday to add a location on the west side of the city – so that Wards 5 and 6 could consolidate closer to home. The current plan has everything on the east and north sides of the City.

“The current setup is lousy, and I agree we need to use another location,” said Councilor Michael Marchese. “There is no reason the Maddie English can’t be open and people could go there for Wards 5 and 6. There’s a lot of long-time older people there. If there are concerns inside, there’s no reason we can’t put a tent down there. Ward 6 needs a voting area. I think they need to reconsider the locations and make them more spread out.”

Councilor Fred Capone said everything was “bunched” up on the east side of the City, and it could make it harder for residents in other parts of Everett to make it to an in-person voting location.

“There’s really nothing on the left hand side of the City,” he said. “I don’t know how we came up with this, but it would make it difficult for people to trek over there. It could be quite a feat to get everyone over to that side of the city…I really would like to see the Madeline English in there as a location.”

Councilor Anthony DiPierro agreed he would like to see another location, but said there aren’t a lot of options as they’re trying to keep people out of senior buildings and elementary schools.

“It’s the reality of COVID-19,” he said. “Everything is different.”

The Council agreed to hold a special meeting on Thursday to iron out a new plan with the Election Commission and Clerk Sergio Cornelio. That would give them enough time to make any changes, or not, and then take the vote.

Councilor Michael McLaughlin recused himself from the discussion, and said he wouldn’t be attending the special meeting as he is running for state representative in the Sept. 1 Primary. However, he said he and his campaign have had concerns since early July about the plan to locate most of the polling places far away from his ward and base of operations.

He said the Connolly Center does a massive food distribution on Wednesdays each week, one day after the election, and would be  busy preparing there for that important effort. Also, he said voters aren’t accustomed to voting at Everett High or Pope John, and it could be confusing to introduce these new locations on short notice.

“As a candidate for State Representative on the September 1st ballot, I have serious concerns regarding what was suggested for polling locations,” he said. Seeing we are just over 30 days before the September Primary getting this information out in a meaningful way to the residents will be almost impossible and cause great confession. I also strongly believe we should have a plan that covers all corners of the community. We need to make voting easier and meet people where they are.

“Ward 6 is my home ward,  by not suggesting a polling location such as Madeline English School or the Department of Public Works in Ward 6 is a blatant insult,” he continued. “This plan was created with one idea in mind.”

He said he was encouraged by the Council’s actions for a special meeting, but said this should have been ironed out in June or July.

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