Remote Early Voting Encouraged Before Town Elections
Jun 17, 2020 01:40PM
By By Grace Allen
An emergency law signed by Gov. Charlie Baker in March allowed towns to postpone their elections to June, when it became clear the coronavirus pandemic would not abate any time soon. Norfolk’s town election, originally slated for May 5, has been changed to June 23, while Wrentham’s election was moved from April 6 to June 29.
The new law also allows for early voting by mail for town elections, without the restrictions required for absentee voting. There is no in-person early voting.
Both Carol Greene, Norfolk’s town clerk, and Cindy Thompson, Wrentham’s town clerk, are encouraging early voting in hopes of avoiding too many people at the polls on Election Day. If you do go to the polls in person on Election Day, you’ll likely encounter abbreviated hours and enforced social distancing. No milling around saying hi to friends and neighbors. And don’t forget to wear your mask.
The clerks say they are thinking through the logistics of Election Day and are committed to providing a safe voting environment for their poll workers and the public. At Local Town Pages deadline, details were not finalized but both clerks talked about what they thought Election Day would look like.
In Norfolk, poll workers will pre-check voters before they even enter the building, directing them to head straight to the correct precinct table. In Wrentham, a greeter will allow up to three voters in each precinct at a time. In both voting locations, there will be one door to enter and another door to exit. There will be plastic sneeze guards for both check-in and check-out locations, and poll workers will be wearing gloves and masks.
In Wrentham, Thompson says voters who do not wear a mask may have to wait to enter the polls until other voters have left.
They’ve even thought about the pens.
“Don’t bring a pen from home,” advises Greene. “We’re going to provide you with a new pen. You can take it with you as a parting gift.”
Thompson says the polls will be open from noon to 5 p.m. in Wrentham. Greene had not finalized the hours in Norfolk at press time.
Wrentham votes at the Wrentham Elementary School, 120 Taunton Street. Norfolk votes at the Freeman Kennedy School, 70 Boardman Street.
Despite all the planning for a safe Election Day, both clerks are urging people to vote early via mail.
“I think early voting is best for everyone,” said Wrentham’s Thompson. “I’d prefer the least amount of foot traffic as possible.”
In Norfolk, each household was mailed a form in late May to request an early voting ballot. Each voter needs to fill out a form, and residents can photocopy the form or download more forms from the Town Clerk’s page at norfolk.ma.us. Or call the Town Clerk’s office to request another one. Voters will then receive in the mail a ballot with instructions and a return envelope.
The last day to register to vote for the town election in Norfolk is Friday, June 12. The last day to request an early voter or absentee ballot is noon on Monday, June 22. Ballots must be received by the town clerk’s office by the close of polls on June 23.
In Wrentham, each registered voter can download an early ballot application from the town’s website (wrentham.ma.us). The completed application can be mailed or emailed to the town clerk, who will then mail out a ballot with instructions and a return envelope.
The last day to register to vote for the town election in Wrentham is Friday, June 19. The last day to request an early voter or absentee ballot is Friday, June 26. Ballots must be received by the town clerk’s office by the close of polls on June 29.
Mail-in absentee ballot request forms are also available on each town’s website.
Both town clerks are unsure how the new voting logistics will affect voter turnout but hope the procedures they are putting in place will help alleviate any concerns residents may have about casting their votes.
“I’d like to think there might possibly be more participation, simply because the ballot is coming to your house,” said Greene. “When in-person early voting has been available, we generally have a better turnout. But you know what they say about the best laid plans.”
Thompson, acknowledging the strange times we live in, joked, “I don’t know what’s going to happen May 29, never mind June 29.”