Town Clerk, Onorina Z. Maloney presented polling consolidation to the Board of Selectmen on November 10, 2014. Consolidating polling places is nothing new in Massachusetts. The benefits for Chelmsford have been thoroughly researched over the past two years and reviewed by public safety officials, school officials, public facilities, election officials, and the Town Clerk's Office. Once approved by the Board, the Town is fully prepared to implement consolidation from five separate polling places, including four schools, to two united polling locations at Chelmsford's largest Middle School and beautiful Senior Center.
Approval on December 1, 2014 would permit the Clerk's Office to begin publicity, including timey notice to all Chelmsford households with the 2015 census.
Press Releases will be issued to local newspapers
The Town will utilize Chelmsford Telemedia, Town Website, and Facebook.
Directional signs will be placed at former polling locations to direct voters for all elections in 2015 and 2016.
Lastly, this project has been in the works for over two years. It has been researched. The plan is in place and ready for approval/implementation. This is an exciting opportunity for the Town.
Below are some concerns that anyone can have when grappling with change and responses that address how change will be managed.
CONCERN: "Why change the polling locations?… This is the way we've always done it!" - By consolidating polling places, the Town will remove the elections from three elementary schools, minimize disruption to multiple facilities, realize financial savings that will grow with each election, and achieve improved election administration and voter customer service. Improvements require change.
CONCERN: "I have to drive too far, it’s inconvenient." - Polling places are open for 13 hours on election day and both locations are centrally and conveniently located. For the heavily attended presidential elections, voters can use early voting and save a trip!
CONCERN: "Why will elections still be conducted in a school building? I thought the point was to get out of the schools?" - When Chelmsford has a large enough non-public school building to accommodate elections, the Town will certainly take advantage of this facility. Until such time, this is the best possible solution that has the support of school administrators, public facilities, and safety officials. Instead of disrupting FOUR schools, elections will only be impacting ONE school facility with older students who are more mature. McCarthy Middle School, being located next door to the Police Station, will provide increased security confidence.
CONCERN: "Will the polling consolidation improve voter turnout?" - We predict that future voting will be made easier with early voting, which was approved by the Commonwealth for state elections in 2016. Early voting is predicted to create more robust election numbers. The Clerk's Office is steadfast in continuing to conduct public outreach, voter registration, and promoting voting.
CONCERN: "The parking will be terrible." - The Police Chief and the ADA coordinator have provided their expert opinions regarding vehicular safety and access to the two proposed polling locations. There will be more dedicated parking spots available after consolidation than what exists at the current polling locations. Plus, there will be better exterior lighting for safety. Additional handicapped parking spots will be designated for larger elections to accommodate all voters.
CONCERN: "Waiting in line to vote will take forever." - In Chelmsford, we already enjoy a fast and pleasant voting experience because the Town has nine separate precincts. By consolidating locations, each precinct will still have its own dedicated ‘zone’ and will continue to offer quick check in and check out. Only the locations of precincts are being consolidated; the number of precincts will remain unchanged.