City election officials this week announced changes to three more Boston polling locations — two in South Boston, one in Mattapan — that will go into effect with the Nov. 4 election.
A malfunctioning elevator system at Metropolitan Baptist Church, located at 393 Norfolk Street, made that polling site inaccessible to disabled voters, which necessitated the Mattapan change, a city spokesman told the Banner on Monday.
This Election Day, those residents in Ward 14, Precincts 12 and 13, who used to vote at Metropolitan Baptist Church, must instead cast their ballots at Berea SDA Academy at 800 Morton Street, about two-tenths of a mile away.
Two South Boston wards will also be changed in order to accommodate what is widely expected to be increased voter turnout. The new locations were selected to provide more space for voting booths and additional interior room to prevent citizens from having to stand outside in the November cold while they wait to vote, according to the spokesman.
Those registered in Ward 6, Precincts 4 and 6, will no longer vote at the James K. Flaherty Housing Complex at 120 H Street. Instead, voting will take place at the South Boston Neighborhood House Senior Center (the John T. “Doc” and Mary Tynan Center), located at 136 H Street, less than 100 feet away from the original location.
Voters in Ward 7, Precincts 6 and 7, who in the past voted at the Mary Ellen McCormack Task Force Office at 345 Old Colony Avenue, will now vote at the Old Colony Teen Center, located at 290 Old Colony Avenue, about a tenth of a mile north, on the other side of the street.
Accessibility for handicapped voters was the main reason cited for changes to a number of polling locations announced less than two weeks before the state’s Sept. 16 primary elections. Several of those shifts affected wards located in Roxbury, Mattapan and Jamaica Plain, the site of the much-publicized Second Suffolk District race between incumbent state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and challenger Sonia Chang-Diaz.
Another note to voters: If you plan on wearing clothing, buttons, pins, signs or other paraphernalia that express support for candidates or ballot measures, be prepared to remove them or cover them up while inside your local polling place.
Massachusetts General Law prohibits the presence of any “poster, card, handbill, placard, picture or circular intended to influence the action of the voter … [from being] posted, exhibited, circulated or distributed in the polling place, in the building where the polling place is located, on the walls thereof, on the premises on which the building stands, or within one hundred and fifty feet of the building entrance door to such polling place.”
According to the Election Day Legal Summary provided by the Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s Office, that prohibition extends to holding any campaign signs, handing out literature intended to influence voters’ actions at the polls, wearing any campaign buttons or identifying signage, soliciting votes for or against a candidate or ballot question, soliciting signatures for nominating papers, initiatives or referenda petitions, or distributing stickers within 150 feet of a building entrance door to a polling place.
While the law prohibits such attire as a violation of the polling place’s intended impartiality, polling officials will not simply turn a voter away or prevent them from casting a ballot, according to the city’s Election Department. Rather, they will ask the person to cover up the attire or take off the paraphernalia while they are in the polling place, as is customary election etiquette.
The bottom line, according to Brian McNiff, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office: “If someone is wearing a campaign button and/or T-shirt, it will need to be taken off or covered prior to entering the polling place.”
Residents with any election-related questions — uncertainty as to what ward they live in, what polling place they should go to, whether they are eligible to vote, Election Day procedures, etc. — can call the Boston Election Department at 617-635-3767 or the Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s Office at 617-727-2828.
A full listing of voting places by ward and precinct is also available at the Web site of the city’s Election Department: www.cityofboston.gov/elections.