The Derry Town Council has formally endorsed a plan to use West Running Brook Middle School as a polling place in the March town elections, while keeping the door open for a return to Pinkerton Academy for state and general elections.
The Council listened to Town Clerk Denise Neale before unanimously approving a move to West Running Brook.
In the November general election, Districts 1 and 3 voted in the Hackler Gym at Pinkerton. District 4 voted at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School and District 5, at the Calvary Bible Church gym. But voters, poll workers and candidates expressed concern about the noontime buses lined up for Pinkerton’s half-day, and said the buses prohibited voters, especially handicapped ones, from easy access to the gym.
Neale met with Pinkerton Headmaster Griffin Morse and was told that “Pinkerton cannot accommodate us as long as school is in session.” The school only closes for one election, the November Presidential election, she said.
Neale added, “I contacted the school district and they had no problem with letting us use another building.”
The tentative plan, she said, is to have District 1 move to Hood along with District 4, and to allow District 3 voters to vote at West Running Brook.
But Neale said that presents an issue, as the middle school was used before for elections and drew 1,000 voters, causing space and parking problems.
Neale reminded the Council that under RSA 658, it is the Council’s purview to provide the polling locations.
Councilor Tom Cardon, also a Republican state representative, said he was concerned about the primary and state elections. “We need a large place such as Pinkerton,” he said. “I think they need to work with the town. West Running Brook is OK for a town election, but the primary – that’s a big issue.”
Cardon said, “Pinkerton is part of this town too. They need to help us out.”
Neale said she needs to give residents 30 days notice for polling places.
Councilor MIchael Fairbanks said in the short term, he favored going with Neale’s plan. “But before the next Presidential election, we should work with Pinkerton,” he added.
“It’s fine for the upcoming town election,” Councilor Albert Dimmock agreed. “But we have to make plans for the future.”
Councilor Joshua Bourdon said, “It’s important that we work to get this right.” He said he’s concerned about voter apathy and having a consistent polling place will limit voters’ confusion.
“I would like Pinkerton to reconsider,” Bourdon said.
Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores agreed, saying, “I think Pinkerton should work with the town. It’s easy to say it’s inconvenient, but that’s the place it should be for the primary.”
The Council voted unanimously to establish the polling places for the March election as Gilbert H. Hood, Districts 1 and 4; West Running Brook, District 3; and Calvary, District 2.