The recent Primary vote held in the Town Hall was a little more cramped than usual. That is because the new voting machines do not have their own privacy screens. The new machine is just a card scanner so the privacy part where you fill out the ballot is provided by a separate privacy kiosk which ended up using more hall floor space than the old style. When filling out my ballot I was able to turn around and put my hand on the table where the inspectors sat.
This somewhat crowded condition brought to mind the old idea that gets brought up every once in a while to move the Polling Station to the Fire House. After this Primary vote, Councilwoman Barb Beecher felt the same way and asked me to look into the Firehouse idea to see what I could do.
I have often heard that the grant used to build the Fire House prohibited the hall’s use for political events. But I feel that voting in a Primary or General Election is not a political event like a Republican fund raising dinner. Voting to select who represents you is the basis for our form of Republic and nothing is more American than that so why would that be prohibited?
I contacted Kevin McCarthy, the President of the Hartford Volunteer Fire Company to discuss this and Kevin found an old letter on the matter. In 2008 Representative Gillibrand contacted the U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to ask if the Hartford Fire House could be used as the town’s polling station under the terms and conditions of the grant. The letter that Kevin found is HUD’s reply to Rep. Gillibrand and HUD says that it can be used as a Polling Station.
The reasons I think the location should be changed from the Town Hall to the Fire Hall are; 1) The Town Hall will be too small with the new voting machine and privacy kiosk if we have a large voter turn out. If it rains during a large voter turnout, the public would have to line up in the truck bays of the Highway Dept bldg. 2) The Fire hall is newer and nicer with a larger seating capacity. 3) The Fire hall has separate ladies and men’s rooms whereas the Town Hall has a single uni-sex toilet. 4) The Fire Hall has a soda machine and a kitchen for coffee urn, etc. 5) Hartford has one of the nicest Fire Halls in the county so why not use it and show it off?
I called the Washington County Board of Elections and they tell me that they have the final approval authority on re-locating the Polling Station. So, if we can get the Fire Company Board of Directors to say OK and the Hartford Town Board’s approval it should just be a matter of course to get it changed.
The voting held at school for school budgets are not subject to this idea. The school owns their own voting machines and the school gov’t is independent of the Town Gov’t.
This re-location (if approved) will not happen in time for this November’s General Election because the postcards the Board of Elections use to inform you where to go were already printed in August. But if we want to vote at the Fire House in 2011, now is the time to start the process. The deadline to do this is May 2011 but I don’t want to wait that long to get it done.
What do you think of this idea?