Upon learning of the increasing difficulty that some registered voters in Ward 5, Precinct 3 have faced while attempting to cast their ballots at the State House annex, State Rep. Jay Livingstone is soliciting feedback from his constituents on alternate polling locations.
Voters were previously allowed to access the site at the entrance off Bowdoin Street via Mt. Vernon Street on election days, making the walk easier for the precinct’s many elderly residents. In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, however, security at the State House was increased, and Mt. Vernon Street accessibility was eliminated altogether, requiring voters to traverse the arduous path from Hancock Street to Derne Street before reaching the steep steps to the State House. Following the Nov. 5 municipal election, Livingstone, accompanied by his campaign chair and longtime Beacon Hill resident Frances Burke and Herbert Weiss, a member of the Ward 5 Democratic Committee and Mt. Vernon Street resident, met with representatives of the city’s Election Department, to address this issue.
“We know that the State House has increasingly become problematic with voters because of some of the security measures in place,” said Gerry Cuddyer, chairwoman of the Election Department. “We in the Election Department have tried to find an alternate locations in past couple of years, but haven’t had a lot of luck. We fully support the representative’s efforts in finding some places we might have missed.”
The Elections Department requires that a polling space is handicap accessible; can consistently serve as a long-term voting location; has potential access on Tuesdays for regularly scheduled- and special-elections; allows sufficient space for two tables for check-in and check-out, as well as voting booths; and would cost little or no money to use. The space must also be located within the precinct, generally considered from Hancock to West Cedar Street and Beacon to Myrtle Street, or within two-precincts distance.
Livingstone said the Firehouse at 127 Mt. Vernon St., which serves as the primary polling location for the flat of the Hill, doesn’t provide ample space to accommodate Ward 5, Precinct 3 voters, but sites fitting the criteria include the Peter Faneuil House, the Beacon House, Vilna Shul and the Somerset Club, among others. Also, he said his constituents have suggested other potential voting sites, such as the Frog Pond on the Boston Common, the Boston Athenaeum and 74 Joy St.
“People consider it a privilege to vote at the State House… but we want to be aware of other options in neighborhood,” Livingstone said. “Voting is so important that we want to make sure it’s as convenient as possible for everyone, from the oldest to youngest, as well as to get the high turnout possible in our elections.”
Weiss attributes low voter-turnout in the precinct to accessibility issues at the State House. “Ward 5, Precinct 3 votes less than other precincts, and part of the reason is because people have trouble to getting to polling locations,” he said.
Meanwhile, Burke said the objective is to locate an alternate polling site before the next election in 2014.
“We have been in and out of State House before, and I hope this time, we can find a welcoming place,” Burke said.
To suggest potential alternate polling locations for Ward 5, Precinct 3, e-mail State Rep. Jay Livingstone at Jay.Livingstone@mahouse.gov.