Power outages force 9 towns to reassign polling places

Local elections officials in nine towns have relocated some of the polling places in their respective communities because of still-unresolved power outages stemming from the Oct. 29 snowstorm, Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill announced Monday afternoon.

And officials in a 10th town, Farmington, tried unsuccessfully in state court Monday afternoon to convince a judge to postpone Tuesday’s municipal elections in their community.

“I am very proud of how registrars of voters and local officials have risen to this challenge, using creativity and resourcefulness to make sure voters can get to the polls tomorrow,” Merrill said during a mid-afternoon briefing in her Capitol office.

As of 2:45 p.m., Monday, Connecticut Light & Power Co. reported on its website that 61,760 residences and businesses–4 percent of their customers–remained without power. The overwhelming majority of those outages were located in northern and central Connecticut, where 20 communities had between 10 and 50 percent of their respective customer bases still without power.

New polling place reassignments are:

  • Avon: Roaring Brook School moved to Avon High School.
  • Bloomfield: J.P. Vincent Elementary School moved to Bloomfield High School; Metacomet Elementary School moved to Blue Hills Firehouse.
  • Newington: Chaffee School moved to Town Hall; Anna Reynolds School moved to Kellogg School; Wallace Middle School moved to Patterson Elementary School.
  • Plymouth: H.S. Fisher Middle School moved to Town Hall community room.
  • Simsbury: All polling places moved to Henry James Memorial School.
  • Somers: All polling places moved to Town Hall’s lower level.
  • South Windsor: Pleasant Valley School moved to Firehouse Company 1; Eli Terry School moved to South Windsor Public Library; Timothy Edwards Middle School moved to South Windsor High School.
  • Stafford: Precincts 1, 2 and 3 moved to the Community/Senior Center at 3 Buckley Highway.
  • Vernon: Voters normally assigned to North East School, Center 375 Building and Vernon Center Middle School all will vote at North East School; those normally assigned to Rockville High School, Skinner Road and Lake Street School will vote at the Center 375 Building.

Merrill said Tuesday that local officials in the affected communities have contacted the local media, posted notices in public buildings, and are stationing volunteers at both new and former polling sites to help inform voters of the changes.

“Whatever happens, there will be some some confusion,” Merrill said, adding that her office has urged municipal officials to be practical. “There is no perfect solution… When you look at the alternatives, there aren’t many good ones.”

Municipal elections traditionally draw fewer voters than contests featuring state and federal candidates, and the secretary said she believes Connecticut will be fortunate if Tuesday’s contest draws the 20 to 30 percent turnout achieved in other recent municipal contests.

“If you’re still without power, what’s uppermost in your mind is you’re feeling cold and wondering when the power is coming back on,” she said, adding that while she hopes all eligible voters will cast ballots, she understands why some might be distracted.

Merrill said Monday’s reassignments demonstrate the need to revisit state election laws, including mandating emergency contingency plans for elections in all communities. “This (storm) is absolutely the test case for that,” she said.

The secretary added the legislature should also study whether to broaden absentee ballot rules, specifically the provision that bars voters from using such ballots unless they will be outside of their voting jurisdiction on Election Day. Merrill said many local officials indicated they wanted to distribute ballots to people staying in warming shelters in their towns, but couldn’t, since these voters — though distracted — were not headed out of town.