So what’s your address?
That’s what Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky wanted to know Monday night when he questioned Election Commissioner Diane Colella and City Engineer Nick Rystrom about roughly 4,000 addresses in the city.
“There were several people in the city who were denied the right to vote,” Novoselsky said, including neighbors of his who were rejected from voting because an invalid address was given at the polls. “She had a valid address, and now we’re hearing that addresses were changed. My house was changed from a two-address home to a one address home. Since the place was built in the 1880s it was always two addresses. Now Massachusetts General Laws state there can only be one address to a property. What does one do after living in a house for 95 years. and then have your address changed.”
In the end it appears that communication about this state law to property owners was not up to par.
“It was handled wrong. Nobody communicated with these folks that their address would change,” Novoselsky said, adding that Colella and Rystron are the two people who have to deal with this.
People who lived at 51 Dehon St. now live at 53 Dehon St. but the house is still labeled 51. So are mailings such as credit card bills, social security, driver’s licenses, mortgages and more are attributed to 51 Dehon St.
Colella said she looked into the Dehon Street address in the assessor’s database. She also has been working with the secretary of state’s office. She said they are trying to maintain consistency with the post office, police and fire all of these addresses are updated by the city engineering department.
Rystrom said he sees the issue come up when dealing with refinancing of property, utility accounts, city services such as fines, and building permits. He said this issue also comes up with e-permitting.
“I didn’t realize this would have such an impact. As they come up we deal with them on an individual basis,” Colella said. “There are a lot of discrepancies in the system.”
“They expect senior citizens to go out and change all their paperwork to match what the city wants to say,” Novoselsky said. “The city should be changing their paperwork to accommodate the approximately 4,000 people.”
He’d like to see the addresses grandfathered in. He noted that the election commissioner does a great job. The letter went out regarding the address and ironically it was sent to 51 Dehon St.
“The post office knows 51 Dehon St.,” he said. “I don’t care what Mass. General Laws say, go with what we have now.”
He asked how having the addresses change impacted the voting.
“You live here you should vote here,” Novoselsky said.
Councillor Anthony Zambuto said he learned of the issue when a friend tried to vote last fall.
“He had to change his address in order to vote,” Zambuto said. “He was told the address he knew for 70 years didn’t exist. I think there should have been a much more vigorous educational process for the citizens. Shame on us for not getting in front of this.”
Colella held out a stack of paperwork representing eight years of records from the building department, the city engineer and addresses with discrepancies. Her department has to work to verify every address of every voter.
“I had no idea the constituent had a problem. Had I known I would have rectified it,” Colella said.
Zambuto clarified his constituent had to go to the city engineer who explained to him why his address had to change. He said the problem is that no one knew of this.
“The bottom line is that the process is flawed,” Zambuto said.
The council voted to send the issue to committee.