Registrars deadlock on polling sites; RTM to decide
With the town's registrars of voters unable to agree on another issue, the decision has fallen to the Representative Town Meeting to select the site of polling stations for four of the town's 10 districts this year.
The RTM will consider where the polls in Districts 1, 2, 6 and 7 should be located when it meets at 8 p.m. Monday at the Board of Education office on Kings Highway East.
It took the RTM several years, two different committees and a court challenge to adopt the new boundaries for local voting districts, based on new census data and district realignment by the state. The new voting map, which shifted voting district boundaries and re-numbered the districts, was adopted by the RTM in February.
Under state statutes, the registrars then are supposed to must select the sites for polling places, but if they can't agree, the job falls to the local legislative body, according to Town Attorney Stanton Lesser.
For polling places within a particular district, designation of the site must be made at least 31 days before an election or primary, according to state law, and at least 90 days or June 16, for a polling place located outside of the district.
In a letter to RTM Moderator Pam Iacono, Lesser said the deadline for designating in-district polling places is Aug. 14, so theoretically, the registrars have until then to decide. "However, you will need to monitor the situation so that if they cannot agree you can bring it before the RTM in a timely manner," Lesser said.
Iacono's memo to the RTM instructs members to review the suggested polling place locations that were submitted, "and be prepared to vote on this item at our May meeting."
Republican Registrar Roger Autuori wants St. Pius Church on Brookside Drive as the polling place for District 2, which is just outside of the district boundaries, but where many of that district's voters are used to casting their ballots. His counterpart, Democrat Matthew Waggner, wants North Stratfield School on Putting Green Road, which is within the district's borders.
Autuori declined to comment.
"I've chosen polling sites that we've used in the past, are within the voting district and have a shorter travel distance for voters in that district than the alternatives being presented," Waggner said.
Waggner chose Burr School for District 1's polls, Holy Family parish hall for District 6 and Fairfield University's Dolan Business School for District 7. Autuori favored poll locations, respectively, at Dwight School, McKinley School and Holland Hill School.
"We initially had the same preference for three polling places, and I compromised on another three that my counterpart proposed because they didn't meet all of my criteria," Waggner said. He said the most dramatic change he's proposed is Fairfield University, which Waggner said is centrally located in its district and would make it easier for college students to vote. "I see streamlining student participation as essential for managing Election Day registration in presidential election years," he said.
There's been no love lost between the two registrars of voters over the last few years, which culminated in a physical confrontation in 2013. Because of the continued rocky relations, they now work in separate offices in old Town Hall.
"I expected that we would each get some of what we preferred in exchange for giving on some other items, but it ultimately appears that others involved in this process have other priorities and see no need to find common ground," Waggner said.