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Friday, December 30, 2011

Remap to shift voting districts

As published in the Record Journal, Saturday December 24, 2011

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2225

While the recent redistricting of the state House and Senate districts for Meriden, Wallingford, Southington and Cheshire didn’t result in radical changes, local registrars of voters say the new lines will require shifts in local voting districts. The changes will be in effect for the Republican presidential primary in the spring.

Now that the redistricting plan has been approved at the state level, local officials are beginning the process of realigning precincts and districts to fit into the new legislative districts.

Republican Registrar of Voters Chet Miller said voters in five of Wallingford’s nine districts — Districts 1, 3, 5, 6 and 9 — may have to go to new polling places the next time they go out to vote.

“A portion of District 3 is moving into 9,” Miller said. The outer edge of District 9, near the Durham line, is moving into District 1.”

Other changes include a chunk of voters in District 1 near Pond Hill School moving into District 9, and some voters in District 5 will be moved to District 6.

The local shuffles become necessary because ballots must be the same at each polling place. With the new boundaries, some voters in a district will be electing new state lawmakers in the 2012 elections.

Miller said letters will be sent to voters who are affected by the change, and anybody who has a question about their polling place may contact the registrars of voters office.

“Once the plan has been settled, we’ll inform those people that have changed,” he said. “If there’s no change, you won’t receive a notice.”

Redrawing districts could also affect the makeup of the local town committees. Vincent Avallone, Wallingford’s Democratic town chairman, said the party is allowed one town committee member for every 75 registered Democrats in a district.

“It could impact the number of town committee members,” he said. “We could have members move or move members in another district.”

But Avallone said he didn’t think there would be a very great impact. Democrats will meet Jan. 11 to elect new committee members.

Miller said that for Republicans the new districts could pit incumbent town committee members against each other.

“In district one, everybody but one person on the committee is moving into the 9th District,” Miller said. “And some members in the ninth are still there. There could be competition for the seats.”

State Rep. Emil A. “Buddy” Altobello, D-Meriden, who participated in the last two local redistricting efforts in Meriden, told the Record-Journal this month that the city could look to cut the number of voting precincts from 17 to either 16 or 12, which would save money.

Lillian (Toni) Soboleski, the city’s Republican registrar, said Meriden officials were waiting for final maps from the state before they began redrawing boundaries in the city. “Our changes depend on the changes the state makes,” she said.

Soboleski said that “it would be nice to cut down on some of the precincts if that’s something that could be done.”

Anyone who has their polling place changed will be notified, she said.

In Cheshire, Republican Registrar of Voters Susan Pappas said new voting maps hadn’t been completed yet but that there shouldn’t be any major shifts in voting districts.

“A few voters might be changed, but overall there were very little changes for us,” she said.

In previous years, the Meriden City Council, which must approve any district changes, has tried to avoid having incumbents face each other because of new boundaries.

Cheshire and Meriden both have area representation on their local governing bodies, while Southington and Wallingford elect all their councilors at large.

The state must reconfigure its congressional, legislative and local government districts, based on the U.S. census, every 10 years. A legislative committee was charged with forming 151 House districts with near equal portions of the state’s population of 3,574,170.

The next election that local municipalities are preparing for is the Republican presidential primary, scheduled for April 24. Miller said that according to state law, all of the town’s polling places must be opened.

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