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Salem selectmen say fifth polling station needed

SALEM — When selectmen and the town moderator admit that voting at some polling locations during the 2012 presidential election was a fiasco, it’s time to look at a new plan.

Town Moderator Chris Goodnow has been meeting with the supervisor of the checklist and the town clerk over the past several weeks to determine the best plan going forward to make sure elections, especially the high-turnout presidential elections, go smoother.

This week, Goodnow met with selectmen to update them on his thoughts on plans moving forward. He presented the board with two options for further research, either sticking to the four current polling locations and looking at ways to improve the process or redistricting and adding an additional polling location.

Selectmen unanimously said they would like to see a redistricting plan that would add another polling location, even though that plan would take more time and cost between $20,000 and $25,000.

Selectman Pat Hargreaves said he didn’t see how any plan could work that only had four polling locations that included the Ingram Senior Center, where the majority of problems occurred during the 2012 presidential election.

“We had lines from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., we had traffic jams, and we had the police blocking the street,” said Hargreaves.

Selectmen asked Goodnow to come back to them within 90 days with a more detailed plan for five polling locations.

At that time, the selectmen will decide how to move forward and whether they want to put any potential redistricting plan before voters.

In September 2012, voters approved a redistricting plan that cut the number of polling locations from six to four.

Goodnow originally thought that another redistricting plan would also have to go before the voters, but after speaking to several state officials, he said the selectmen could unilaterally approve future redistricting plans because of that vote.

While selectmen did not have to decide this week if future redistricting will go before the voters, there was some disagreement on the issue.

Selectman Michael Lyons said he was for the board taking responsibility for the redistricting and making the decision, while Selectman Stephen Campbell said he would like to see it go before the voters, even if it isn’t required by state statute.

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