September 21, 2014
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Redistricting had some voters confused, but overall election ran smoothly

It was easygoing at Hoxsie School Tuesday, provided that was where you were registered to vote. The school was one of the city’s smaller polling places, serving about 700 registered voters.

But the nearest polls to Hoxsie – Randall Holden School and the Shields Post – served more than 2,000 registered voters each and there were delays. Wouldn’t it have made sense to equally divide the registered voters between the three polls, or, if it was a matter of saving money, melding the three locations into two?

As it turned out at Hoxsie School, poll workers spent much of their time redirecting voters to either the Shields Post or Holden School.

Voters were coming to Hoxsie out of habit, although they were mailed cards listing their poll prior to the primary election in September. Many voters didn’t recall receiving the cards.

That wasn’t the only change in polls that had some voters confused and questioning the reasoning behind voting districts. The Beacon also had inquiries about the logic of polls at Cedar Hill School and another just up the street at St. Gregory the Great Church.

The answer to the change in poll locations for a number of voters was the redistricting the state was required to undertake as a result of the 2010 Census. In addition, regulations demand that no single poll serve more than 3,000 voters; and that there be at least one poll in every representative district.

Lines were long at some polls as more than 38,600 voters, almost 63 percent of the city’s registered voters, turned out to cast ballots. And some lines, depending on voter names, were longer than others.

Donna McDonald, Warwick director of elections, said that the list of registered district voters was split in half in the case of smaller polling locations and in thirds for the bigger ones.

Still, some voters had to wait while others at the same poll breezed through. It depended on where their names were alphabetically, and how many others were in the same grouping at that time.

“I would love to find a better way,” McDonald said yesterday. One suggestion she offered is that, as voters are waiting, they be reminded to get out their identifications.

This was McDonald’s first run as director of elections.

“Overall, I’m very pleased,” she said. She was impressed by the turnout.

“This was a very passionate election,” she said. “People felt one way or the other.”

She hadn’t heard of David Gustafson’s story.

Gustafson, who votes at Greenwood School, was handed a ballot in a blue privacy folder, like everyone else. When he went to a booth to record his vote, he discovered the ballot had already been filled out (not that he disagreed with the selections).

Evidently, a prior voter returned the ballot to the folder instead of filing it with the machine.

Gustafson said he made the situation known and was given an unmarked ballot.


Comments
1 comment on this item

I was at the RI National Guard Armory for about 2 hours on election day. At one point people waited an hour and a half to vote. Many elderly and disabled people left before voting. Also, there were many who had to leave who told me that they had to go to or go back to work and would not be able to vote. During the 2 hours I was at this polling place, at least 40 people turned and left.

At the end of the night while I waited at city hall for election numbers, there were staff members returning with piles of ballots, not sealed inside bags or boxes but loosely transported. This is the wrong procedure. They should be in a bag and sealed with the initials of the person that sealed it. We also waited an hour for a computer chip/module to be returned to the board of elections. Apparently, the chip/module records the polling data. They had no idea where it was but according to the person in charge, it should have been returned first. It was disturbing.

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