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Braintree consolidates polling stations

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BRAINTREE — By a single vote, City Council has approved a plan to consolidate the city’s 12 precincts into three voting centers for elections during the remainder of 2020. This includes the September 1 state primary election, the September 26 special election on school debt exclusions and the November 3 presidential election.

Under the plan, recommended by City Clerk James Casey, voters in Districts 1 and 2 will vote at Braintree High School, voters in Districts 3 and 4 will vote at East Middle School, and ballots for Districts 5 and 6 will be at South Middle School .

Casey said reducing the number of polling stations is the best way to protect voters and poll workers during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The clerk pointed out that the change was temporary. He said cleaning and maintaining 11 different polling stations throughout the voting process to prevent the spread of the virus was too big a task.

“I can’t guarantee that I can do it,” Casey told the board at its Wednesday night meeting.

He also had to take into account that most of his election workers are older people, a high-risk group for the coronavirus.

“For the safety of voters and the general public, this is the best option,” Casey said.

The Board’s Ways and Means Committee approved the plan.

“I think this meets the critical public health need we have and the fundamental right to vote,” said Meredith Boericke, Councilwoman for District 5, Chair of the Ways and Means Committee.

District 1 Councilwoman Julia Flaherty said the plan excluded elementary schools from voting, raising concerns that people with criminal backgrounds would gain access to the buildings.

Opponents of the plan said they favored some consolidation, but the plan was too much of a change.

District 4 Councilman Steven O’Brien said he could support reducing the number of polling places to six, each serving a two-precinct district.

Casey said some city polls aren’t big enough to accommodate two precincts.

At-Large Councilman David Ringius, District 2 Councilman Steven Sciascia and District 3 Councilwoman Donna Connors joined O’Brien in voting against the plan.

Casey said he has a plan to publicize the changes, starting with sending a letter to each of the city’s 27,000 registered voters notifying them of a change in polling place.

He said voters also had options other than going to the polls, including early voting, mail-in ballots, mail-in ballots and in-person mail-in voting.

Face coverings will be required at the voting center, Casey said.

Fred Hanson can be reached at [email protected]