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Polls experience fewer problems; ACLU praises ease of voting.

Byline: Nick Kotsopoulos

Chris Robarge, who is with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, heaped praise on local election officials Monday night for the way things went at the polling places for the recent state election and the September state primary.

Mr. Robarge said he visited 47 of the 50 polling places in Worcester during the two elections and said he found no glaring issues in regard to people being denied the opportunity to vote. He added that poll workers have made great strides in recent years in the way they handle people who show up to vote but are on the "inactive'' voting list.

He said he found that voters on the inactive list were asked for photo identification far less frequently than they used to be. Under the law, inactive voters are not required to provide a photo ID; all they have to do is to verify their place of residence. "It seems to be getting better,'' Mr. Robarge told the Election Commission.

"Things worked very, very well. The wardens were helpful and understanding and things overall generally went well,'' he said.

He also praised the work done by the high school students who worked at the polls on Election Day.

Mr. Robarge said there were some parking issues at some polling locations and the need for interpreters at others.

He said he will present all his findings in writing to the city clerk.

Speaking of "inactive'' voters, that continues to be a problem in Worcester.

Under state law, registered voters end up on the inactive voting list if they fail to respond to the annual city census.

Believe it or not, going into the September state primary, 58.7 percent of the city's registered voters were actually classified as "inactive.''

Those on the inactive list who want to vote have to provide some form of documentation that shows a consistency of residency at the place where they are registered, though they don't have to produce a photo ID.

Going into the Nov. 4 state election, the number of voters on the inactive list dropped from 63,082 to 50,248, which is 46.3 percent of the city's registered voters.

Today, the number of voters on the inactive list has dropped to 44,951, which is 41.3 percent of the registered voters, according to figures provided to the Election Commission Monday night.

Even today, three of the city's 10 wards -- Wards 6, 8 and 10 -- have more voters on the inactive list than on the active list.

Interestingly, two of those wards (6 and 8) are home to colleges (Holy Cross and Clark), and the college students are notorious for voting in presidential elections in great numbers while passing in droves on state and local elections.

Wards 8 and 10, meanwhile, are in the inner-city neighborhoods, where there is greater transition in the population from year to year.

Mr. Robarge said the number of people on the inactive voting list should drop in the coming years.

He pointed out that the Election Modernization Bill approved by the Legislature earlier this year reforms the way in which people will end up on the inactive voting list.

Currently, Massachusetts is the only state that makes a voter "inactive'' after a one-time failure to return a city or town census form, regardless of how often the voter goes to the polls. But that will change in 2016 under the new law, according to Mr. Robarge.

Instead, a registered voter will be put on the inactive voting list if they fail to vote in two consecutive statewide elections.

City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. has made the following appointments to city boards and commissions:

Nancy Garr-Colzie to the Commission on Disabilities for a term to run through May 31, 2017.

Talena Ngo to the Citizens Advisory Council for a term to run through March 31, 2017.

Scott Zoback to the Hope Cemetery Commission for a term to run through Dec. 31, 2017.

Contact Nick Kotsopoulos at Follow him on Twitter@NCKotsopoulos
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Title Annotation:Local
Author:Kotsopoulos, Nick
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 20, 2014
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