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Norwalk Voters Hurriedly Adapt to District Shifts

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk's voting districts were redefined in the wake of the 2010 census, and now polling places are being realigned as well.

Under a plan being considered by the Common Council, the city will save money by offering fewer polling places. Some Norwalkers will have to drive farther, but the operation will be more efficient.

State law mandates that voting districts be redrawn every 10 years after the census. With slightly different state districts to deal with, Registrars of Voters Stuart Wells and Karen Doyle Lyons have proposed eliminating three polling places.

They originally thought about dropping Nathaniel Ely School as a polling place, because the fewest number of voters use it. But Wells said the council's ordinance committee has decided to keep it open.

The plan as currently proposed is:

  • District 137A Marvin Elementary School
  • District 137B St. Mary's Community Hall
  • District 137C Tracey Elementary School
  • District 140A Kendall Elementary School
  • District 140B Columbus Elementary School
  • District 140C Nathaniel Ely Elementary School
  • District 141A Roton Middle School
  • District 142A Fox Run Middle School
  • District 142B Ponus Ridge Middle School
  • District 142C West Rocks Middle School
  • District 143A Nathan Hale Middle School
  • District 143B Wolfpit Elementary School

Silvermine Elementary School, Rowayton Elementary School and Brookside Elementary School were used as polling places in the 2010 election but are no longer on the list. Silvermine is remote, Wells said, and there isn't much parking. Ponus Ridge is much better.

A public information hearing on the topic will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23, in the Common Council chambers at City Hall. The council will vote on the topic the next night.

Wells said it costs $5,000 to run a polling place. "We think we can run efficient elections with a few less polling places than before," he said.

Wells and Lyons asked the council to make the matter a priority at the last council meeting. Because the legislature completed the redistricting in December rather than the hoped-for September date, the registrars say they are about five weeks behind. The presidential primary is in April, and they need to send out notices to voters in March.

Some people will find themselves in another district. Wells said some parts of Grumman Avenue are now in the 143rd House District. Parts of the 141st House District have shifted as well.

"We have to figure out where all the 20,000 residential parcels in Norwalk go, to which district," Wells said. "We've got a handle on it; we think we can do it. But we have to send everybody a notice, and we'd like to get it right, so we'd like to have some time to double check."

Voting can be confusing because many people vote in one spot during a municipal election and in another for a state election. "Currently 37.5 percent of the town votes in a different place every year," Wells said. "We can cut that down considerably."

He says the high number of polling places in Bridgeport contributed to the embarrassing shortage of ballots in the 2010 election.

Bridgeport is bigger geographically but has the same number of voters as Norwalk does, he said. There were 25 polling places in Bridgeport and 14 in Norwalk. "The problem that happens is you've got too many places to worry about, you've got some extra staff," he said. "You check things, but you can't double check some of the things that you'd like to. Obama came to town, but it never occurred to them they were too busy to double check the number of ballots."

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