MELROSE, MA – City lawmakers are being asked to consider what dramatic polling station change would best serve Melrose’s 20,000+ voters.
In light of accessibility issues hampering several polling stations, the electoral committee recommended one of two changes to the city institute in late spring: either make the middle school a permanent central polling site, or move the Winthrop School and City Hall polling stations to the Memorial Hall and relocate the polling site Steele House at Roosevelt School.
The City Council’s Legal and Legislative Committee is due to examine the options on Monday evening. One thing for them to decide is whether any of the changes would harm some part of the electorate unequally.
A city evaluation found that none of the changes would have a different negative impact on voters based on age, race, income, disability, national origin or disability.
In a memo quoting this month’s U.S. census, Melrose has an electoral population of 20,733, with an average voting age of 51. The average voting age in all 14 boroughs ranges from 47 to 52, which suggests that no borough has a higher than average population.
The memo also states that Melrose is similar in terms of population and socioeconomic status to other communities with a central electoral location such as Stoneham, Wakefield, Burlington, and others. The city also doesn’t have a sufficiently large minority population that would require language assistance for location changes, although it does have a Google Translate option on the website.
The council’s decision is likely to change when at least hundreds – and perhaps more than 20,000 – have voted in Melrose.
The memo states that the middle school gym – which successfully housed all of the constituencies in elections last November and September, with the latter seeing record turnouts – is within 2 miles of “almost every household in town” and 0.3 Miles from a bus stop. has sufficient parking spaces and is ADA-compliant with a conveniently located drop-off zone for passengers.
When the middle school location change was first proposed, the city council should have petitioned the state legislature on house rules. But the pandemic-related legislation that made the centralized location possible in 2020 has since been extended.
The other option, merging some districts into Memorial Hall and Roosevelt School, would offer many of the same benefits, including ADA compliance, parking, and, for Memorial Hall, even closer proximity to public transportation, the memo said.
Most importantly, either option would end the voting at Winthrop School – a place the Board of Registrars of Voters said was not a viable solution to ADA compliance – and the Steele House. It would also move the vote out of town hall, where more accessible issues exist.
Middle school was also one of the places where accessibility issues were found but the only thing missing was “Van Accessible” signage in the parking lot.
The accessibility issue arose when former town clerk Amy Kamosa resigned from her position earlier this spring and wrote a letter on her way out to alert Secretary of State William Galvin’s office of potential issues.
Mike Carraggi can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @PatchCarraggi. Subscribe to Melrose Patch for free local news and alerts, and like us on Facebook.