The town may move the Precinct 15 polling place from The Stonebridge Club in the Pinehills in the wake of the long lines that plagued Tuesday’s primary election.
PLYMOUTH – The town may move the Precinct 15 polling place from The Stonebridge Club in the Pinehills in the wake of the long lines that plagued Tuesday’s primary election.
Town Clerk Laurence Pizer said he will recommend that the Select Board move the polling place about two miles away, out of The Pinehills, to Plymouth South Middle School, where parking is plentiful and there is plenty of room to vote.
The decision would not affect the March 31 special election to fill a vacancy in the Plymouth and Barnstable state Senate District. That election will still be held at The Stonebridge Club.
If approved, Plymouth South Middle School would become the polling place for Precinct 15 starting with the May 16 town election.
“The reason we originally chose The Stonebridge Club is because the majority of Precinct 15 lives in the Pinehills and it’s easier to get there than other locations,” Pizer said. “But we’re concerned, for the November election in particular, that overflow crowds won’t be able to be dealt with efficiently at the Stonebridge Club.”
Voters in Precinct 15 endured long waits, some up to two hours, to cast their ballots in Tuesday’s primary.
Pizer said a perfect storm of election issues caused the delays. Most, he said, were beyond the town’s control.
Pizer said the crowds at Precinct 15 were strong all day and the last live ballot was not recorded until 8:45 p.m. – 45 minutes after the polls closed. Only then were poll workers able to start processing hundreds of absentee and early voting ballots for the precinct. The results from Precinct 15 were not available until early Wednesday morning.
Two state mandates slowed the process.
For starters, the state Senate mandated that a separate ballot be used for the primary to fill the state Senate seat vacated last fall by Sen. Vinny deMacedo.
The state also mandates that only one voting machine can be used at each precinct.
Placing two ballots into the machine added five to 10 seconds to the time required to process each vote. But with more than 2,000 voters and more than 4,000 ballots, the seconds added up to big delays.
Pizer also noted that one of the main ballots was longer than usual because it included the names of dozens of town committee candidates. While ballots are usually 11 to 14 inches long, the ballot with the town committee slate was 18 inches.
The longer ballot required the voting machine to take slightly longer to read and record the data. The longer ballot was also a little more prone to jamming the voting machine if not inserted perfectly.
The sheer number of voters was also a problem. That will be remedied eventually by this year’s census.
Pizer said the precinct has grown dramatically since the last census, as more and more people have moved into the densely populated community and surrounding neighborhoods. Pizer noted that because many Pinehills residents are retirees, the majority of residents are also of voting age.
When Precinct 15 formed on Jan. 31, 2012, 3,398 registered voters were in Precinct 15. Currently, 5,429 voters are in the district. Of those, 1,726 voters cast ballots Tuesday. Most cast two ballots.
A new census this spring will reestablish precincts in town.
Pizer said the existing Precinct 15 is almost large enough to fill two regular precincts. The town will work with the state to establish new precinct lines, once the census establishes residency as of April 1.
The new numbers are expected in January 2021, and the town would likely have a new precinct plan by the summer of 2021. The first election with the new precincts would be the town elections in the spring of 2022.