Newington officials reconsidering proposed poll redistricting

Published on Wednesday, 26 January 2022 16:46
Written by Erica Drzewiecki

@drzewieckinbh

NEWINGTON – The State has redrawn its legislative and congressional district lines, making change inevitable for voters, whose uproar over the Town’s proposed poll redistricting has led officials to reconsider their options.

Two new plans were presented to the Town Council this week by Newington Registrars of Voters Theresa Avey and Marie Fox. Both were less game-changing than the original proposal presented Jan. 11 to reduce the number of voting districts from eight to three.

The scrapped plan would have tripled the amount of voters assigned to each of three polling places and moved voting districts across town. Opponents said this was unfair to voters, particularly the elderly and disabled, who may be accustomed to walking to their polling place and not having to wait in lines outside in November weather.

Elected officials are now considering two alternative proposals, which are expected to be discussed and voted on at their next meeting Feb. 8 before a public hearing is set for the end of next month.

“Marie and I would like to thank the public who reached out to us directly not only with their concerns about our proposal but with ideas; they were greatly appreciated,” Avey said.

“We’re here for the voters, not to suppress any votes,” Fox added.

The State’s changes left Newington with two instead of three Assembly Districts, so the Registrars must adjust the Town’s eight voting districts and seven polling places accordingly.

“This council is united in trying to meet the needs of the voter and I do believe that both parties want that and everyone at this table wants what’s best,” Mayor Beth DelBuono said before opening up the table to public participation.

While some callers had heard the presentation and were relieved the Town was no longer considering the proposed reduction, others seemed to be unaware of that fact and continued passionate testimony in its opposition.

One in particular had strong words for the Mayor, demanding her immediate resignation.

This caller, who identified as Bob Tallard, proceeded to ask DelBuono questions and wait for responses, despite the fact she clarified it is against government rules to engage in conversation during the public participation period.

“You must be all extreme conservatives and Trumpsters,” Tallard said, addressing the Council’s republican majority. “Beth, you know nothing about the town or respect anybody in the town to propose this. I do demand that you resign right now. Disgraceful.”

Others acknowledged the changes that had been made thanks to residents’ opposition.

“This divisiveness doesn’t belong here; things have been righted,” Alicea Charamut said.

Councilor John Donahue thanked everyone for expressing their opinions and called out Tallard for his disrespect.

“Voter suppression is not what this is about,” Donahue said, addressing people who asserted they had adopted values from the Southern U.S. “We’re not Georgia, we’re not Texas, we’re Newington,” he added. “Let’s put the negativity behind us and move forward.”

Deputy Mayor Gail Budrejko also thanked citizens for coming to them with concerns about reduced voting access with the original plan.

“Their concerns were heard and the process worked; a new proposal came out which will be discussed, dissected and evaluated by this council,” Budrejko said. “To think there was anything devious, nefarious, planned and calculated is an insult to the registrars, to me and the council.”

State Sen. Matt Lesser and State Rep. Gary Turco held a press conference Jan. 18, rallying opposition to the original eight-to-three plan. Both legislators responded to the new plans this week, continuing to defend voters’ rights.

“I am relieved that Newington’s Republican and Democratic Registrars of Voters announced at a meeting last night that they are abandoning plans to shutter 5 of 8 of the town’s polling places,” Lesser said in a statement Wednesday. “The right to vote is the most fundamental right in a democracy. Newington’s elected leaders heard loud and clear that the public cares deeply about voting rights. I will pay close attention to the new proposal to review any impact on the right of Newington residents to vote. This isn’t over.”

DelBuono shared the Town’s reasons for looking into the redistricting, which she said were anything but political.

“The ‘why’ is that the reapportionment from the state causes some of our current districts to not be in line with new state assembly districts put forward by the state,” DelBuono explained. “There will have to be some changes that take place. That being said, we can try to minimize the number of changes if that’s what the public wants from us.”

Specifics on the two new proposals are expected to be posted to the town’s website soon.

Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at edrzewiecki@centralctcommunications.com.



Posted in New Britain Herald, Newington on Wednesday, 26 January 2022 16:46. Updated: Wednesday, 26 January 2022 16:48.