UPDATED: Planning and Zoning approves polling changes
This article has been corrected to reflect two changes in polling locations. The Darien News originally reported three changes in locations in its July 12 edition. We regret the error.
Two of the six polling locations in Darien are set to move for the next election following an approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission at the Tuesday, July 9, meeting.
The polling location at Ox Ridge Elementary School, which encompasses District 1, will move to the McGuane Field House. The location at Darien High School, which encompasses District 5, will move to the new Board of Education building at 35 Leroy Ave. The registrars of voters hope to move the polling location at Holmes Elementary School next year.
In a May memo to the Board of Selectmen, the two primary reasons listed for changing the polling places are for "school safety concerns" and "cost," though the conversation at the June 3 Board of Selectmen meeting focused on the need to increase suitability for voters.
"If safety was the only thing, we would hire police and guards for the day," said Kathy Hammell, the Democratic registrar, at the May selectmen meeting. Hammell said police officers would be hired for the schools for the 14-hour voting period at the cost of $60 per hour. Officers would be present during the busy periods at the other locations, but not the whole day.
What Hammell and John Visi, Republican registrar, found when they inspected Holmes and Ox Ridge elementary schools and Darien High School was that the distance from the parking lot to the polling place created problems for voters.
The commission's unanimous approval came with a request to improve the lighting at the McGuane Field House, per a recommendation from members Kevin Cunningham and Steve Olvany, who cited personal experiences with the dark location at their children's sporting events.
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"It's super dark there are night," Cunningham said. "Even at dusk -- my kid plays ball there -- it's dark." He added that while there are lights at the location, they don't produce a lot of light past the immediate building.
Cunningham suggested that the registrars include auxiliary lighting in their budget for election nights and seek assistance with the lights from the fire departments in town.
"It's two great places; it's a great idea," Olvany said. "You've just got to figure out the lights."