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East Islip poll station changes called ploy

The East Islip School District's decision to reduce polling sites for Tuesday's school election from four locations to one is being called by some residents a ploy to suppress votes.

"We are suggesting it may be an attempt to depress the turnout," said Andrea Vecchio, a longtime East Islip resident and activist with East Islip TaxPAC.

School officials said security concerns prompted the change. Previously, voters went to four places -- Connetquot, John F. Kennedy, Ruth C. Kinney and Timber Point elementary schools.

"While this worked in the past, it would now present difficulties due to the district's new security procedures," says a statement from the district.

In February, new audio/video surveillance systems were installed at the main entrance doors of the elementary schools. Visitors must show identification and be cleared before doors are unlocked to allow entry, school officials said.

"Community members would be required to follow the identification procedure, possibly leading to long lines. This would be necessary since the safety of the district's students, faculty and staff must remain paramount," the statement says.

Instead, the annual budget vote and board election will be held in the first-floor cafeteria and gymnasium at the Early Childhood Center, 1 Craig B. Gariepy Ave. in Islip Terrace, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Parking is available in the front of the building and in the rear parking lot. No students are currently in the building.

Up for consideration is a $109,476,684 budget for 2013-14, with an average tax increase of 3.86 percent.

Vecchio said the district did not sufficiently publicize the location change and had published the four locations in a legal notice. She also said the center does not have enough parking.

The district subsequently published two additional legal notices with the new polling information on May 2 and May 16, school officials said.

Longtime resident Florence Lent questioned the change, saying some residents are unfamiliar with the center.

"My complaint was 'Why is it so devious? Why did they do that? To keep us from voting?' It sounded like a ploy," said Lent, who has lived in East Islip since 1955.

In nearby districts, voters in Connetquot go to three polling locations while residents in Central Islip vote at one.

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