Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
School renovations change polling places for primary

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
August 1, 2006

VERNON - A school asbestos-removal project has forced officials to change three polling places for next Tuesday's primary election.

Voters who usually cast ballots at the Skinner Road School, Lake Street School, and Vernon Center Middle School will instead vote at Center 375, the community center and office building at 375 Hartford Turnpike.

Other voters will cast ballots as usual at the Northeast School, Maple Street School, and Rockville High School, officials say.

In addition to notifying the public about the change in polling places, local election officials are working on teaching voters to use new voting machines.

Instead of voting on mechanical machines, some of which date back to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration, voters will fill in bubbles on cards, as students do on standardized tests.

The cards will then be fed into a scanning machine, which will count the votes, Democratic Registrar of Voters Judith A. Beaudreau said.

Beaudreau said moving the polls to Center 375 made sense because voters are used to casting ballots there during local referendums.

"We did four budget referendums this year and seven referendums last year," Beaudreau said. "They are getting used to this."

The asbestos removal is expected to be completed this summer so that children can return to school in the fall. Likewise, the town is expected to return to its usual polling places for the November general election.

Because the Aug. 8 primary will be open only to Democrats Beaudreau said overcrowding isn't expected at Center 375. The primary election will determine which Democrats will run for the U.S. Senate, governor, and lieutenant governor in November.

Beaudreau said bright yellow postcards have been mailed to Democrats in the affected voting districts. In addition, signs will be posted at the three closed schools on Aug. 8 to notify voters of the change of location.

As part of a $68.3 million school renovation project, approved by voters at a March 2005 referendum, workers are removing asbestos floor tiles from the three schools.

Once commonly used in building construction, asbestos is known to cause cancer and other diseases. During the removal, which began June 29, the three schools are off limits to anyone except people working on the project.

The new voting machines are part of an effort to improve the reliability of voting machines and ballot tallies following the controversy that marred 2000 presidential election and ensuing recount in Florida.

The town has used a similar system during recent budget and bonding referendums.

The biggest difference between the old and new systems is that there will be a paper record of each ballot cast, Beaudreau said. As a result, she said, it should be possible to account for every vote during a recount.

"You can't get any better because there is a paper trail," Beaudreau said.

She added that the town will have to store the used ballots for 180 days after each election.

Anyone with questions about the Aug. 8 primary can call the registrars' office, 870-3685.

©Journal Inquirer 2006