Come 2012, some voters in town will be casting their ballots in different polling places than what they are used to.
Town Clerk Taylor D. White went before the board of selectmen last week seeking approval to reduce the number of precincts in town from seven to six and eliminate the polling site at Sandwich High School.
Mr. White said it is a move that could save the town $2,500 per election.
“Over a 10-year period, depending on the number of elections that are held, the town could save as much as $50,000,” he said in a telephone interview this week.
The town clerk’s request to reduce the number of precincts, he said, is based on the federal census conducted last year.
He said that the census shows that the town has grown by only 500 people since 1990.
“According to last year’s federal census, we have a population of 20,675,” Mr. White said.
Although the clerk’s office tallies the number of people living in Sandwich at 23,000, Mr. White said that number is a bit skewed and he has been working to get a more exact count.
“Last year, I culled the list down to 21,775. There were people who died or moved out of town who never got removed from the town’s population list. I’m still in the process of purging the list and the reality is that we have a little over 21,000 people living in town,” he said.
Mr. White said the last time that the town reviewed its voting precincts was in 1993 and that is when it increased to seven precincts. He said at that time, the town was experiencing tremendous growth and town officials believed that, based on the population growth, the town would need seven precincts. “We thought we were growing at a fast pace. But, it began stabilizing some time around 1998,” Mr. White said.
He said that, according to the office of the Secretary of State, there must be a minimum of 3,274 people and a maximum of 3,618 people per precinct. These numbers include all residents, even children and non-registered voters. Mr. White said currently, Precinct Six has only 2,800 people living within that boundary and Precinct Four has 3,300. He said if the town eliminates one precinct, each of the remaining precincts will have an average of 3,400 people living within their boundaries.
“That puts us right in the middle of the state’s recommended range,” he said.
He said reducing one of the precincts in town and absorbing those voters into other precincts will allow him to eliminate the high school as a polling site.
Since he must have a police detail at each polling site as well as six workers per precinct, the town stands to save money.
“I can eliminate the need for a police detail at the high school and reduce the number of man hours needed during an election by 84 hours,” he said.
Mr. White said the change will also free up one of the town’s voting machines, which will be used as a backup machine.
“We’ll have an extra voting machine, which is great, because we should always have an extra in case one breaks down,” he said.
Mr. White said the majority of voters who will be affected by the precinct changes live in Precincts Three, Four, Five, and Six. In some cases, he said, a voter’s precinct may not change but the polling site will. Voters in Precincts One and Two will continue to vote at the Henry T. Wing School. Voters in Precincts Three and Four will vote at the Oak Ridge School and voters in Precincts Five and Six will vote at the Forestdale School.
Any residents who are affected by the change, whether it is a change in their precinct or a change in their polling site will be sent a letter notifying them of the change. “I don’t have the exact information on who is being affected yet. We’ll have to wait until later in the year,” Mr. White said.
He said the change will not take place until next year, after the town’s May election.
There are still a few more hurdles to clear before the change is a done deal. First, he said, the state must be notified of the change and approve the boundary lines. From there, the change needs to be approved at the federal level.
Mr. White said he has heard complaints from residents who pass one polling site to vote at a different one and said this change should reduce that issue.