Next Monday, the Select Board will complete its redrawing of our political map with adjustments to polling locations. As part of this effort, the Select Board needs to move the Precinct 9 polling place into Town Hall.
Prior to the pandemic, Precincts 7 and 9 voted in the community room of the Chestnut Manor senior housing building. The Select Board did the right thing when they made the health and safety of Chestnut Manor residents a priority, and they moved Precinct 9 to the Bishop School. While this move solved an immediate problem, this review of polling locations presents the Select Board an opportunity to take a townwide look at polling places in the context of new precinct boundaries.
During this year’s reprecincting, Precinct 9 was redrawn to remove neighborhoods north of Warren Street. The precinct was expanded to the east and west to stretch along Massachusetts Avenue from Wyman Street to Grove Street. Every home in the precinct is now a short walk to Massachusetts Avenue.
The geographic center of the newly drawn Precinct 9 is Court Street, across the street from Town Hall.
The proximity of Precinct 9 to Massachusetts Avenue means it is the home of many people who do not own cars and rely on transit. In addition, 37% of voters in the new precinct are over 65 years of age, and 17% are residents of the three Arlington Housing Authority (AHA) buildings located within the precinct.
Many seniors are served by the Council on Aging; when the renovations of the Senior Center are complete, these services will again be located next to Town Hall. Restoring services will also allow the Council on Aging to resume bus services connecting seniors in the AHA buildings to the Senior Center and Town Hall.
The Town Clerk’s survey revealed that polling at Bishop School is a hardship for many Precinct 9 voters. Town Hall resolves this problem. Town Hall is walkable for most Precinct 9 voters, and voters at the outer bounds can hop the 77 bus for a ride to the polls.
Moving Precinct 9 will not provide a hardship for voters currently casting ballots at Town Hall. The Select Board is looking to move Precinct 7 out of Town Hall and into the Gibbs School, which is located in the middle of the new precinct; Precinct 9 can move into that space.
Matching precincts to polling places is a challenging logic puzzle. Some decisions are difficult. However, choosing a polling place for Precinct 9 isn’t a difficult decision. Precinct 9 belongs at Town Hall, and the Select Board should make that decision next Monday.
Paul Schlichtman is a Town Meeting Member from Precinct 9, and a member of the Arlington School Committee.