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Nashua moves to relocate polling sites out of schools


NASHUA — Polling sites at two city elementary schools will be moved to local churches to improve student safety and traffic flow.

The Ward 3 polling place, located at Amherst Street Elementary School, is being relocated to the First Baptist Church at 121 Manchester St. The Ward 5 polling place, located at Main Dunstable Elementary School, is being moved to CrossWay Christian Church, 503 Main Dunstable Road.

After meeting with Superintendent Mark Conrad, City Clerk Paul Bergeron asked the Board of Aldermen this week to consider the polling site changes, which is expected to improve the election-day process for voters, ward workers, school faculty and students.

“School security concerns are being addressed nationally in a number of ways, one of which is to move the polls out of schools,” Bergeron wrote in a memo to city aldermen.

While some communities close their classrooms or host teacher workshops during election days, the Nashua School District remains in session during September elections, although it is closed during November elections.

All nine of the ward polling sites are located at city schools — eight of them at elementary schools and one of them at Fairgrounds Middle School. Bergeron said Tuesday that he anticipates the majority of the city’s polling sites will be moved out of local schools eventually, although that will take some time.

“Ward 5 is one of the most problematic polling sites in the city,” said Bergeron, noting parking is limited and the cafeteria space used for voting is not adequate. In addition, there is not enough space to set up all of the voting booths required by state law, according to Bergeron, who believes there will be adequate room at CrossWay Christian Church since there is a large hall and sufficient parking.

The other new polling site at the First Baptist Church has a handicapped-accessible entrance and telephone jack for the city’s handicapped-accessible voting system, he said.

“For Nashua voters, alternative sites will generally provide better meeting space, more parking, safer traffic patterns and more comfortable facilities for our ward workers and voters,” said Bergeron.

Voters in Wards 3 and 5 will be notified by mail of the change in polling sites. The relocation will first take place at the Sept. 9 state primary election.

Currently, the city is required to have a fax machine available for a special voting device used by disabled residents unable to fill out traditional paper ballots. Since the fax machine is necessary at each polling site, it limits the location of polling places under consideration, Bergeron said.

However, he said the city is planning to participate in a new pilot program initiated by the state that will utilize self-contained computer systems for disabled voters instead.

While the polling relocations are permanent, a temporary polling change is also being planned for Ward 1 because of construction at Broad Street Elementary School this fall.

For only the state primary election and the 2014 state general election, the Ward 1 polling site will be moved to the Birch Hill Elementary School.

khoughton@newstote.com

        

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