BIDDEFORD — In November, all Biddeford voters who head to the polls will be going to a new location. In July, the city council approved consolidating the three former polling places to a single location: Tiger Gymnasium at Biddeford High School on Maplewood Avenue.

Because of the increase in absentee voting and the generally low voter turnout on Election Day, a single location should be enough to serve the city’s needs, said City Clerk Carmen Morris.

In addition, she said, there were a number of inadequacies with the former polling places.

“The polling places we had were becoming not functional anymore,” said Morris.

The polling place at the public access center on Pool Street wasn’t working, she said. For one thing, when the building was renovated, there was less space for voting. Also, she said, “the parking and traffic flow on a busy election was not adequate.”

Parking and traffic was also a problem at the J. Richard Martin Community Center, another former polling place, said Morris.

And while the Rochambeau Club had plenty of parking, people with physical disabilities had trouble getting to the voting area, she said.

None of these issues should be problems at the new location, said Morris.

During the day, while students are in school, traffic should flow smoothly on Maplewood Avenue, and there should be plenty of parking. An entire parking lot near the gymnasium will be reserved for voters, as well as several rows of parking spaces in the large school parking lot. There will also be 15-minute parking available on Maplewood Avenue that day.

In addition to the inadequacies with the older polling places, Morris said, “Voter turnout is not great statewide, not just in Biddeford. Having three places didn’t make sense.”

Not only that, she said, but “absentee voting is becoming more and more popular.”

Four years ago, in the last gubernatorial and legislative election, there were slightly more than 1,300 absentee ballots cast. So far this year, Morris said, there have already been more than 1,700 ”“ and more are expected.

While the majority of the council voted to consolidate polling places, not all councilors were in favor of it.

“We already have low turnout as it is,” said Councilor Robert Quattrone in July, prior to the vote.

At a single location, he said, all of the candidates running during an election will be at the polling place and voters will have to pass by all of them, which could intimidate some and discourage voting.

Some residents were also against a single voting location.

“I believe this is a bad idea,” said Richard Rhames. “I believe several polling places serve the population well.”

Having voters “jam into” the high school on a school day will be off-putting to some, he said, and detrimental to the voting process.

People have until Thursday, Oct. 30 to vote absentee or request an absentee ballot. In special circumstances, an absentee ballot can be requested at a later date. The ballots must be returned by end of voting on Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]



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