Zhi Zhu also contributed to this article.
On September 6th, 2022, Tuesday morning, voters walked into voting locations and saw the implementation of new voting machines amidst changes in precincts in the City of Malden. Walking into new polling locations for the first time, voters saw the use of new technology, and utilizing new strategies for voting during the state primaries, this election was dramatically different from previous elections. The City of Malden implemented many new technologies and tools to make voting more accessible and easier for voters.
Voters began to trickle into polling locations across the city at 7:00 AM. Throughout the day, there were not many incidents regarding the new change in precincts. Some voters did get confused, not knowing where their new precincts were. Sheena Lapia-Pappas, a warden stationed at the Salemwood school for wards 5-1 and 7-1, claimed that “the hardest part about the new precincts was having everyone find exactly where they need to go." In the case of voters, it was that it “caused a lot of confusion, and I know [that] a lot of people, especially after work, are rushing to get to the polls to get their vote in on time,” she said.
The City of Malden tried to give out as much information about the change as possible, as City Clerk Greg Lucey explained in a city council meeting on September 20th: “We try to [use] every opportunity we get, we like to promote elections, tell people [to] get information out there so it's less confusing that day.” Moreover, he said that the September primary was “unique” as it went up from 16 precincts to 27 — almost double. Although some voters were confused on where they needed to go, many voters had not been changed to different precinct locations. Assistant Registrar of Voters, Assistant City Clerk Carol Ann Desiderio says in the meeting that they did a census mailing to every household where voters got a “tear-off” portion and “told you exactly why your polling location was changing, [and] where your new [voting] location was.” Unfortunately, though it was a good idea, they got many census forms back where the notes were still attached to the bottom of the form. She also stated that this “was a huge year of transition for us, in addition to our polling places being different.”
Voters who consistently voted each election noticed changes, with the new usage of technology in the voting locations they’ve been going to for years. Many dedicated voters noticed a change in voting machines, many liked how they got a checkmark when they put in their ballot. Lapia-Pappas says that “it was very helpful, and they enjoyed it.”
Feedback from new ballot boxes was not the only thing that was new. The use of the new handheld electronic translator called “Pocket-Talk”, was available to translate information into multiple languages with the push of a button. The Pocket-Talk was accessible at every precinct and was used “specifically as a backup to those precincts that didn’t have bilingual poll workers that could help,” noted Desiderio. The city made great efforts in attempting to recruit bilingual poll workers. “We had 17 bilingual poll workers or interpreters, 14 of them spoke Cantonese/Mandarin, a combination of both,” stated Lucey.
Speaking of poll workers, Desiderio added “we did three trainings alone just on the new voting machines and how they work.” The city was stuck in a hard place while trying to come up with new recruits, and Desiderio elaborated, “...our goal was to get at least 66 new poll workers, we came close, we didn’t meet that goal, but we’re not giving up.” Lucey said, “[We] can't stress how much more effort it takes and more challenging it is, [to have] 11 different additional precincts.”
For the November election, the city is going to be conducting many improvements and will have a “big push for new poll workers” and will “continue to tweak and perfect everything that we did for September moving into November,” as Desiderio noted. “We did pretty well considering all the new things that we were juggling, we kept the balls in the air,” she said.