AUGUSTA — Residents in the city’s Ward 4, left without a polling place now that St. Andrew Church is for sale, may be voting in the June primaries at the Augusta Civic Center even as Celtic dancers and their fans converge there.

A committee that has studied where Ward 4 voting should take place recommends using the civic center, which is actually in Ward 3 and which already serves as that ward’s polling place, according to City Clerk Barbara Wardwell.

Residents who vote the evening of the June 12 primary elections will also encounter crowds there to see a production of the popular Riverdance. The Riverdance production, starting at 7:30 that evening, will take up the auditorium, leaving only the first floor of the North Wing of the building for Ward 3 and 4 voting.

“Riverdance will definitely have an impact from, say, 5 o’clock on. They’ll be setting up, people will be in and out, and (fans) will be coming in between 6:30 and 7:30,” Wardwell said. “It’s a concern, but we don’t feel it’s going to impact until late in the day and it’s only a primary election, so we don’t believe voter turnout will be that high.”

Ward 4 generally encompasses the northeast portion of the city, including Bangor Street and Riverside Drive, as well as Church Hill Road, North Belgrade Avenue and Longwood Avenue north of South Belfast Avenue.

During voting, Wardwell said the North Wing of the civic center will likely be split — Ward 3 to the right and Ward 4 to the left.

Voters will also have their own parking lot and entrance. The North Wing entrance and adjacent parking lot will be blocked off so only voters are allowed.

“The challenge will be controlling the flow of traffic into the room,” she said.

That was an issue in the November 2009 elections, when voting in all four of the city’s wards was consolidated in a single room at the civic center, and about 7,000 Augusta residents cast votes in an election that featured a controversial same-sex marriage referendum. At times that evening, there were long lines as voters made their way into the polls through a single door.

Wardwell noted that the North Wing of the Civic Center is much larger and has multiple, wider doors compared to the room where the 2009 election was held.

And, with only two wards instead of all four, Wardwell is confident the North Wing of the can accommodate voters.

The most voters the city has ever had for a primary election was about 4,000, she said, a total that included all four wards, in a presidential primary.

Wardwell said the civic center has already been approved as a polling place by the Secretary of State’s Office. Selecting another spot would require re-submitting paperwork and having the location inspected by the state, and there’s probably not enough time to do that anyway, Wardell said.

Other Ward 4 voting sites considered by the committee included the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine on Church Hill Road, the Cony High School gymnasium and Augusta City Center. All were rejected as less than ideal, either because there may not be enough time to get new locations inspected, a lack of parking or unfamiliarity to voters.

“We settled on the civic center, because it would cause the least disruption and would be the most familiar to voters,” O’Brien said. “It may turn out the civic center will be the location, again, for the November elections.”

Or not. Wardwell and O’Brien said the committee will continue searching for a long-term polling place for Ward 4, and expressed concern about confusing voters by moving their polling place too often.

The selection of the civic center as the June 12 polling place for Ward 4 will be the subject of a public hearing at the March 1 City Council meeting.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]


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