Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Polling Place Criticized For Lack of Access

Salem Heights Silouette

My old colleague Ken Bonacchi has a letter in the Salem News today, “Polling Place Not Disabled Friendly”.  He and I vote at the same precinct.  He doesn’t like our polling place.  Partial quote:

I live in Ward 2, Precinct 2, in Salem. My assigned polling place is Salem Heights on Pope Street.

It may have been appropriate for this purpose at one time, but that time has long since transpired. Allow me to share with you my experience at this vexing voting venue:

1.) Access: The building as currently configured is not in compliance with the ADA rules for access to persons with a disability. It may work as a building to provide housing, but it fails the test as a polling place.


Finally, I am at the doorway to the area set aside for voting. This is a small room, made smaller by the artifacts and the presence of poll workers.

2.) Accommodation: Tables to the right, tables to the left, voting booths ahead, poll workers, law enforcement and assistants on the loose; add to this mix the voters and their children, and there is barely room enough to enter, cast my vote and leave while trying to make way for those who are entering the same doorway.

How a wheelchair would have run this gauntlet is anyone's guess. I question the presence of children in the ballot area. This area should be restricted to those who are either poll workers, law enforcement or individuals who are voting. This is not the time for children to be present. [Blogger’s note—Ken’s opinion, not mine.]

The machine available for use by persons with impaired vision was not on and ready to use. I am forced to ponder the question: "Do they not expect participation from a person with a disability?" Are they trained in its use when it is time to do so? Who holds the key to initiate the machine?

The room is small, but in fairness it is probably the biggest turnout ever held there since it  became a polling place in 1996.

I do agree with Ken;  I don’t like our polling place.  But for a different reason:  It’s too far away.  It’s a long walk to the polls from my location;  this year, I just hopped the #456 to Proctor St., and got a ride on the way back.

Unlike other election years, there were no volunteer drivers to take people in my building to vote.  I assume the Obama drive in the “other Salem” (NH) sucked out all the volunteers who would have otherwise stayed in Massachusetts, and the McCain campaign had no one on the ground to speak of.  My colleague Jack Harris called for a ride on primary day six weeks ago from the Kerry campaign.  Never showed up, and it appears Kerry, like too many Massachusetts pols, takes his consituents for granted.  I wasn’t going to take that chance myself, hence the bus ride.

It’s less than a year to Salem’s municipal—and Mayoral—elections.  Obama may change our lives in DC, but the real control for Salemmites happens on Washington St.  I’d like to see change—starting with a new polling place for Ward 2 Precinct 2!


Anonymous said...

While I sympathize on accessibility, I respectfully disagree in the strongest terms about children in the polling place. While this may be inconvenient, they are able to move out of the way and I will never forget "helping" my mother vote in 1984 when I was 11. She impressed upon me the importance of voting and made me feel a part of the process. It's a grand American tradition to bring your children to the polling place.

Anonymous said...

I strongly agree with the previous comment. Children should not only be allowed to be present for voting, but parents should be encouraged by all means to bring them along. Voting is a learned habit; if children see it as a standard, routine practice, it will become a lifelong tradition for them as well.

David Moisan said...

I've clarified my post; Ken, the person I quoted, made the comment about kids in the polls, not this blogger. I have no opinion on that, except that my parents never took me to the polls.

If you take kids to the polls to teach civics (commendable!), one hopes you take them also to a boring primary race when you don't know half the people on the ballot. Not every politician is as competent and charismatic as Barack Obama.