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Danbury Dems accuse Mayor Boughton, Republicans of voter supression

Cross post from HatCityBLOG

Well, if Mary Ann Doran/Danbury RTC/Mark Boughton’s attempt to re-locate the sixth ward polling location from the easily accessible Park Ave School to the “middle of nowhere” Moose Lodge isn’t another example of their ongoing effort to supress the vote and rig the election, then you haven’t been paying attention.

Thankfully, the Danbury Democrats aren’t staying silent on this nonsense.

Danbury Mark Mark Boughton, Republican candidate for Governor, claiming a record of inclusion and accessibility as Mayor that includes recent courting of Hispanic and other minority communities, is now behind a controversial move to relocate a local polling place to one that makes it substantially harder for people to vote. Boughton and Danbury Republicans want to move voting in Danbury’s 6th Ward from its current location, Park Avenue School, where people have voted for over forty years and which is a highly visible public school, located on a main road with public transportation, lighting, sidewalks and access from multiple directions, to a private hall operated by the local Moose Lodge and which is located on a road without proper lighting, sidewalks, has access from only a single intersection, has no access to public transportation and which is so remote, that even Gary Mattson, the administrator for the Moose Lodge recently said to the Danbury Patch: “We’re a hidden entity out here. It is a bit out of the way for a polling place.”

Critically, the NewsTimes editorial page, Danbury’s major daily newspaper, opposed the move with an editorial on Sunday, September 8, 2013. The paper’s opposition is shared by voters. During a wide spread canvas of voters in the Sixth Ward over this past weekend the response was overwhelmingly negative regarding the potential move. Well over a hundred voters, including Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters, signed a petition opposing the move and asking that the City of Danbury leave their polling place where it is.

Republicans justifications are a moving target. The Republican Registrar of Voters claims it’s more centrally located; the Mayor says it’s about safety during construction at the school – despite that fact that this directly contradicts his previous statements that ongoing school renovations pose no safety risk to the elementary school children attending classes. “The Mayor’s claims about safety are absurd: if it’s not safe for voters, then the Mayor needs to explain why he allowed school to open and children to return to class at Park Avenue,” said Danbury Democratic Party Chairman Joseph DaSilva.

Sixth Ward Council members, Democrats Ben Chianese and Paul Rotello, questioning the logic and timing of the move, said, in a joint statement that “this fight is about the voters and residents of the 6th Ward maintaining their historic public polling location, not replacing it with a smaller, more distant and less safe social club on a dead-end road. The switch is bad for voters and their families. It simply makes no sense.”

“Despite the varied excuses the issue is simple: Park Avenue School better serves the majority of 6th Ward residents in a safe and effective way,” said City Council Democratic Leader Tom Saadi adding, “there is no legal or logistical requirement for a proposed move which seems to defy logic.”

The move is also opposed by local officials, community leaders and Danbury’s Democratic Registrar of Voters, Marge Gallo, who submitted a detailed letter to the City Council. Danbury’s Hispanic Community has also voiced opposition. During an interview with the Danbury Newstimes, Ingrid Alvarez-DiMarzo, executive director of the Multicultural Center of Greater Danbury, said that many minorities and working-class families live in the neighborhood surrounding Park Avenue because of its easy access to services by both walking and public transit. “It’s not just the Hispanics and Latinos who would be impacted, but also the elderly and the working-class families. I can tell you which buses go to Park Avenue, but there aren’t any buses going to the [Moose] lodge,” said DiMarzo.