Brunswick residents vote at the junior high school. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

The Brunswick Town Council could move the town’s voting location from the junior high school to the recreation center.

On Monday, the council voted 6-3 to formally request the school board’s position on the issue.

Councilor Kathy Wilson, who is co-sponsoring the proposal, said in an interview Tuesday said there are concerns about student safety and the disruption of school operations.

“It’s just a maze of confusion,” Wilson said.

Additional reasons include better parking and access for those with disabilities.

While councilors Chris Watkinson and Sande Updegraph are also behind the proposal, Chairperson Jim Mason and councilors Kate Foye and Steve Walker are opposed.


In an interview Wednesday, Mason said the junior high school provides the best location in the densest part of Brunswick. A similar proposal was rejected in 2018 by a 5-4 vote, according to Mason.

“I believe this move, while meaning to provide better parking, will lead to disenfranchising of voters,” said Mason. “There are district three voters who are going to be driving 15 to 30 minutes more round-trip than they currently are. I think it is more likely to put up barriers to having people vote than taking them away.”

Councilors also floated the idea of using both locations.

Polling is done in the gym at the school, located on Columbia Avenue, nestled in a residential area less than a mile from downtown. In November 2021, voter parking extended along school grounds and down Columbia Avenue.

The recreation center opened off Neptune Drive in 2013 at Brunswick Landing — the site of the former naval air station that was decommissioned in 2011. Since then, nearly $1 billion has been invested in the former base which has led to significant housing and business development. The recreation center is approximately 4.7 miles from the downtown area.

Brunswick residents also appear split on the issue.


“The rec center at Brunswick Landing has better parking and lighting,” said Steven Mickiewicz. “Brunswick Junior High School is congested and dark on November polling days. My only concern would be how voters without automobiles would get to the rec center, but the same concern applies to the junior high school right now, so it is a (solvable) problem for both locations.”

Leslie Ballin was also in favor of the move, citing better parking and more space indoors. “Move it to the rec center,” Ballin said. “That’s a no-brainer.”

“The JHS is much more convenient for everyone on the west side of town,” said Joel Smith, who opposed switching the polling location.

Pam Smith, unrelated to Joel Smith, also spoke in favor of the junior high school. “It’s in the heart of our community,” said Pam Smith. “When you’re voting you’re taking time out of your day, so something that’s close to where you live is really important.”

If the town goes ahead with the move, voting at the rec center would not be feasible by June, partly due to current redistricting efforts, Brunswick Town Clerk Fran Smith said

The junior high school has been the town’s only polling location since 2010, Fran Smith said, and each election requires between 50 and 75 workers. Prior to 2010, Brunswick held elections at six locations throughout town. The reason for the consolidation was limited staff resources and an increase in absentee voting, she Smith.

The junior high school was closed at the latest referendum in Brunswick, Fran Smith said, although traditionally the school only closes for major gubernatorial and presidential elections.

The 2012, 2016 and 2020 presidential November elections drew 12,088, 12,892 and 14,061 voters, respectively. In 2021, 35% of voters cast absentee ballots, with 50% in 2016 and 80% in 2020.

The November 2021 state referendum in Brunswick drew 7,923 voters, 41% of whom voted through absentee. Brunswick’s population is approximately 21,755 people, according to April 2021 census estimates.

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