LWVA On Consolidation of Polling Places

The League of Women Voters submitted the following statement to the Amherst Town Council in early August regarding plans for consolidation of polling places for the upcoming primary and general elections. The issue was resolved at a special meeting on August 10. video.

The League of Women Voter of Amherst has been attentive to the recent debate over polling place consolidation, and to last week's Town Council discussion and vote in favor of a single site.

While we acknowledge that the Council's goals include making polling in Amherst more efficient, the League's mission is to provide voter information and education, protect voting rights, and to encourage voter participation in the political process.

Amid rising COVID-19 numbers in Massachusetts, we take very seriously the current Centers for Disease Control's guidance to "maintain or expand" polling place sites. Nationally, our League supports expansion rather than contraction, and CDC guidelines.

We are aware of the significant public opposition to the single site plan, due in part to concerns about the prospect of long lines for the upcoming November 3 Presidential election. Residents have raised numerous concerns about voter access with a single site and about the plan's potential adverse impacts on several constituencies.

We are glad to see that the Town Council will reconsider its vote of August 3 and has provided an alternate plan, Option 2. We believe that Option 2, fully articulated in this new report, makes the most sense for the coming primary and Presidential election. However, we cannot fully support the option outlined in Appendix C, where voters from four polling sites are consolidated at the high school gym, thereby increasing the risk of COVID-10 exposure for those voters.

We urge the Council to vote in favor of Option 2, to maintain our eight existing polling sites and to add the high school gym as a new site for two of the Bangs Community Center precincts.

The League has a long history of providing information and education for the voters of Amherst. We stand ready to begin our public voter education efforts as well as to assist the Town with voting-related matters, including dissemination of information about the upcoming elections and publicizing related site staffing needs.

Sincerely,
The League of Women Voter of Amherst

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