Much of Easton came out on Nov. 2 last year to cast their vote in the mid-term elections, which brought about a few changes - including a republican-dominated House of Representatives in Washington.
Locally, though, the November elections brought about the first time Easton voted at one polling place.
The result has been a discussion amongst town officials as to the effects, benefits, and problems with having all of Easton vote at Oliver Ames High School. Previously, the town voted at three seperate polling stations.
In total, 9,011 Easton residents came to the high school to vote in November. The problem, for many, was traffic congestion and confusing signage. Easton Selectman John Haederle compared Oliver Ames High School on that Tuesday to "Bangkok at rush hour."
For Town Clerk Jeremy Gillis, who told Patch he still favors holding polling in one place, one solution to the problem would be to close school every other year during election day. To add to the 9,000 Easton residents voting, 1,166 Oliver Ames High School students were in class or on the athletic fields. Gillis told the Board of Selecmen during a November meeting that Norton, Foxborough, Mansfield and Stoughton all closed school during elections. Sharon and Brockton were the only neighboring towns that kept their doors open.
The Easton School Committee addressed the issue last week, but did not come to any definite solutions.
"I think we have not had an opportunity to explore the effects on the educational program, and also the concerns that we did have on voting day – ways they could be mitigated," School Committee Chair Caroline O'Neill said.
The school committee discussed the issue with Commission on Disabilities Chair Robert Coe, who said many disabled people and senior citizens had difficulty with the election day set-up.
Coe said he spoke with some residents at Elise Circle and Parker Terrace who said they left without voting. He said signage was confusing, and handicap parking wasn't as accessible as many preferred.
"Some of them just went home instead of even voting, even though they really wanted to," he said.
Coe listed off a number of suggestions that could be used to mitigate concerns. He suggested having one way into the parking lot and one way out, being sure there were no obstructions that could trip people as they walked into the gymnasium, and allowing people to enter through the side door near the auditorium and main gym as to allow for more handicap parking.
ONeill and the School Committee said all of the ideas would be taken under consideration, but mentioned that the decision to have voting at one place was not the school committee's decision. As for prospects of closing the school, she felt it was a good thing that many Oliver Ames students saw people coming to vote.
"I’m a little reluctant to deprive so many students to see citizens involved in voting activity," she said.
School Committee member Jane Martin agreed with O'Neill, while mentioning that there would be plenty of time to consider options.
"In some ways we’re fortunate because there’s no immediate election coming up," she said. "I do tend to agree with Caroline (O'Neill) that I don’t think it’s a bad thing for our kids to see people voting."
Regardless of whether or not school would be in session, Gillis told Patch in a recent interview that holding elections at one place was much more cost-effective and allowed for events to run much smoother.
He said in 2008 while polling was at seperate locations, 96 provisional ballots were cast, whereas in 2010, only 15 were cast. He also said the town saved $5,200 in 2010 by polling in one place. Currently, the town of Easton could face a $2 million deficit in Fiscal Year 2012, according to preliminary estimates made by Town Administrator David Colton.
"That $5,000-$20,000 dollars saved a year by using a single location would need to be cut from somewhere else, and unfortunately that would probably entail a greater impact on the taxpayer in terms of reduced services," he said.
Regardless of whether or not school will be in session, elections should be at one location, or the current process would be changed, town officials tended to agree that one thing was working in their favor - time.
The next "major" election date is in November of 2012.
"I just think we need a little time to look at these things," O'Neill said.