LEWISTON — June primary voters won’t have to learn new ward boundaries but they may need to share a single polling place, according to City Clerk Kathy Montejo.
Montejo outlined proposed changes to the city’s ward boundaries during the council’s Tuesday workshop.
She said the city won’t try to rush the new ward boundaries into place before the June 10 primary.
“After you approve the new ward lines, we then need several months to go into the state database and make all those changes to every street and every house and assign them to the correct ward,” she said. “That’s going to take a lot of time to do that and we simply would not have time to do that between your April adoption and the June election.”
The new wards are based on the 2010 census and state legislative and county district boundaries adopted in Augusta last summer.
Because of the way the city’s current wards cross the state’s new districts, Montejo said there will be multiple varieties of ballots with ample opportunity for ballot confusion.
All seven of the city’s wards will go to the Longley school gymnasium.
“There is a greater chance of making a mistake, of giving the voter the wrong ballot,” Montejo said. “Even though our election workers are wonderful, they are citizen workers who do this once a year while we do it every day. So we are recommending consolidating the polls, and that way city staff will be on site with one master check-in table and a ballot distribution system with a lot of safeguards in place.”
Montejo said new boundaries change as few ward boundaries as possible so the new map doesn’t create confusion. According to state guidelines, each ward can have about 5,228 residents, based on the 2010 census.
No elected officials would be moved out of the wards in the draft map, she said, and the changes were as subtle as possible.
“Most of the wards, at least 75 percent-plus of the current wards and proposed ward lines are the same,” she said. “We are not proposing anything really radical.”
Councilors should see a vote to adopt the new districts at meetings in March and April. If councilors approve, the new ward boundaries will be used for November’s election.
“That will be the first time these changes impact them,” she said. “Our intention is to do a mailing to every voter whose ward has changed in the first week of October.”
Councilors had no comments on the new map and Montejo said digital versions would be available online Wednesday.
Montejo said she’s confident the Longley school gymnasium can handle any voters who show up. The school is the permanent polling place for Wards 4, 5 and 7 and served more than 2,500 voters last November’s election. Past primaries have brought up to 1,300 voters across the entire city.
“Granted it will be a busy day,” she said. “But we have been there, and it has worked. We think we will be fine in June.”