2-11-20 Primary election

Conway Town Moderator Deborah Fauver helps a voter though the line during the primary election at Conway Elementary School Tuesday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

CONWAY — Where would you like to see voting take place in Conway?

That’s a question Town Moderator Deborah Fauver is asking with three elections still on tap for 2020.

On Tuesday, Conway Elementary School in Conway Village was used for the primary, and there were issues were reported for motorists getting to the polls on Route 16, with westbound traffic backed up past the Four Corners.

“We ought to invite suggestions on where we should hold voting,” Fauver said Wednesday.

Just 2,976 out of 8,000 registered voters cast ballots Tuesday. Fauver had initially predicted 4,000.

She said inside the building, things went well and parking worked out alright.

But, Fauver said, "It sounds as though voters were reporting trouble with traffic, getting to the polls."

Asked about the traffic, Lt. Chris Mattei said that he thought the issue may have been people slowing down to look at the campaigners holding signs on the sidewalk of Route 16.

“ I’m not so sure you can blame voting on the traffic,” said Conway Selectman Carl Thibodeau, who worked the polls.

He added: “I think this is a good place for a primary and a town election. In November, we’re going to be looking at 5,000 voters, that needs to be at the high school.”

Selectmen's chairman David Weathers said “I don't know what else we could do,” when asked about traffic problems.

Weathers said they had police there all day directing traffic.

He said using the Kennett High School gym would have cost $7,000-$9,000 because mats would have had to be placed down to protect the floor. He said using the gym in the new rec center would have led to the same traffic issues.

Weathers said some people said it took them an hour to get to the polls to vote while others said they were able to get right in.

The town/school elections are scheduled for April 14 for SB2 voting; the Sept. 8 state and county election; and the presidential election on Nov. 3.

Tuesday was a teacher workshop day, giving students in SAU 9 and 13 the day off, which made Conway Elementary School available for voting.

Fauver said using a school essentially means canceling classes for the day.

“As of now, there are no plans or a school to be closed (on April 14) for the state primary (Sept. 8),” she said. “I think this is going to be an issue for the selectmen to decide.”

For most of the past 21 years, voting for town and national elections has primarily taken place in the Conway Community Building in Center Conway. With the departure last year of the town recreation department, the building is currently closed.

With an expected large turnout for the primary, town and school officials had originally planned for voting to take place in the Peter Ames Gymnasium at Kennett High School. But with snow on the ground, and the gym floor being wooden, officials rethought that location.

“There has been some talk of using the Seidenstuecker Gym for the April elections,” Fauver said. “Doing it with school in session, I think would be a problem, especially with parking and traffic flow.”

The high school was the polling place for the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections.

The gym at Conway Elementary, which was built in 1957, is made of composition vinyl tile, which does not need to be covered for voting to occur.

Fauver has her thoughts on what might make a good voting site.

“My personal preference would be to hold (April and September elections) at the North Conway Community Center (in North Conway Village),” she said. “But that would be provided we were able to use the North Conway Country Club’s parking lot.

“I’m open to suggestions," Fauver said, "knowing that holding it at a school means closing that school for the day.”

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