Officials mingle after Auburn’s inauguration ceremony at the newly completed Senior Community Center in December 2019. The city is planning to use the center as a polling location for wards 1 and 2. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — The city staff in Auburn is proposing to hold the November election at three polling locations: Auburn Hall, the Auburn Senior Community Center and the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn.

One location has never been used for an election. Another hasn’t been used in more than a decade.

The City Council is expected to vote on the plan Monday, after councilors  voted last week to shelf a previous proposal to hold all voting at Norway Savings Bank Arena.

Due to COVID-19, staff had pitched the dual-surface arena as the only viable location to host all five wards and have suitable parking, stating it would eliminate the need to use school locations and ease concerns over finding adequate numbers of poll workers.

However, the majority of the council disagreed with the proposal, arguing the city should maintain as many physical polling locations as possible for the presidential election, while promoting absentee ballots and early voting.

Instead, the council voted on a three-location plan, but let city staff members propose the locations.

According to a memorandum for the Aug. 17 council meeting, staff members have chosen the Auburn Senior Community Center for wards 1 and 2; Auburn Hall for wards 3 and 4; and the Boys & Girls Club on 2nd Street for Ward 5.

Staff members said multiple considerations went into the recommendations, including size, traffic flow, accessibility, parking, passenger drop off areas, elevators, sidewalks, walkways, hallways & corridors, building entrances and exits and public transportation to the polling location.

The City Council will have to sign off on the proposal Monday, with the consolidation is also dependent on the secretary of state’s final approval.

For the July 14 primary, the city used Norway Savings Bank Arena and Auburn Hall.

Heading into the fall presidential election, with large turnouts expected, officials said the normal school polling locations in gymnasiums and other larger areas will likely be occupied for educational purposes due to social distancing measures, prompting the call for consolidating.

While several elected officials said the city should be operating as many polling locations as possible, staff said the alternatives to the city’s five normal locations also raised concerns.

City Manager Phil Crowell said last week that the city has never used Auburn Hall for more than one ward, and that many seniors don’t like using the parking garage.

Mayor Jason Levesque said Thursday the city should “celebrate the removal of voting from our schools,” given COVID-19 guidelines.

“We also need to realize that while no scenario is perfect, we must work together to ensure that every citizen has the opportunity to vote, free of undue burden,” Levesque added.

Councilor Leroy Walker had pushed for a local polling location in New Auburn, which he said is home to a large elderly population that would struggle with Norway Savings Bank Arena. He floated the idea of the Boys and Girls Club, which has not been used as a polling location since 2007.

The Auburn Senior Community Center, which opened last year after expansive renovations, has never been used, but hosted the city’s inaugural ceremony in December.

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