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Elections chief says no change in South Boston polling locations

Polling locations in South Boston will stay the same for the 2009 municipal elections, the city’s election chief said Tuesday. And city-wide, there will be only one move: from Academy Hill Library, which is undergoing extensive repair, to the Veronica Smith House, around the corner and on Chestnut Hill Ave. in Allston-Brighton.

City election officials have backed off a proposal to move the polling location at St. Matthew the Redeemer, an Episcopal church in South Boston, a stronghold belonging to mayoral candidate Michael Flaherty. Three precincts vote at the 825 E 4th St. church, which had been closed earlier this year as the church seeks a buyer for the property.

Geraldine Cuddyer, chair of the Boston Board of Election Commissioners, said officials with the Episcopal Church have agreed to keep St. Matthew open for the 2009 election cycle.

“It’s a tough election to move people around,” Cuddyer said.

Two Dorchester schools slated for closure this year – the Pauline Shaw Elementary School on Norfolk St. and the Lucy Stone School on Regina Rd., - will still be used as polling places, Cuddyer added.

The potential move of St. Matthew drew concern from the Flaherty camp, which worried about its possible effect on turnout. The worries echoed those of former Sen. Dianne Wilkerson’s unsuccessful 2008 re-election campaign, which saw the relocation of ten polling places within the Second Suffolk District before the Democratic primary. Her staffers charged that the shift affected her base in Roxbury and Dorchester, leaving voters confused as to where to go.

Cuddyer said Election Department staffers had searched for alternatives to St. Matthew, but most places either did not meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act or would have created a “domino effect” in moving other precincts.

The last day to register for the preliminary election is Sept. 2. The preliminary is scheduled for Sept. 22.