Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, I am encouraging voters to consider obtaining absentee or early voting ballots by mail for the remainder of the year. As you are all well aware, our Annual Town election, originally scheduled for April 13 has been postponed by a vote of the Board of Selectmen to SATURDAY, JUNE 13 FROM 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM. In addition, there are two more elections in 2020, the State Primary Election on September 1 and the Presidential and State Election on November 3. While we all hope that the restrictions on social gathering will be lifted, it seems unlikely that the COVID-19 virus will go away anytime soon. It is my hope that everyone will remain cautious as to social distancing as restrictions are lifted.
The laws have been relaxed for absentee voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, anyone who may consider themselves to be self-quarantined due to possible exposure to the virus or symptomatic of the virus can vote absentee or early by mail. In addition, any voter who may consider themselves to be at high risk can also vote absentee or early by mail.
Although I am required to open our polling location as usual for all elections, it is my hope to have minimal in person voter traffic for the safety of the voters and the election workers. At this time, it is anticipated that the Annual Town Election will be held in June as required by Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020, allowing the postponement of Town elections to a date prior to June 30. I am prepared to have all personal protection measures in place for both the election workers and the voters to avoid the spread of the virus for those voting in person and for the safety of my election workers. All election workers will be required to wear masks, gloves and face shields. In addition, voters will be asked to use personal protection equipment in order be allowed to enter the polling location to vote in person. Voters will be asked to bring their own masks and hand sanitizer, and it will be allowed to have voters use their own pen, pencil or marker to mark the ballot. Brand new markers will be offered to those who do not have their own. It is anticipated that we will be able to provide masks and hand sanitizer to voters that do not have their own. Upon arriving at the polling location, voters should expect to see the following additional precautions in place:
- Social distancing of 6 ft while waiting to enter the polling location
- Not more than 10 voters will be allowed inside the polling location to vote
- Voters will be asked a series of questions regarding their health and COVID-19 exposure over the prior 2 weeks before entering
- Voters will be asked to sanitize their hands before entering and will be asked to use face coverings while inside the voting location
- Any voter who feels they may be symptomatic will be asked to be isolated to vote in person and sanitizing of the isolation area will be performed after use
- Voting booths will be placed a minimum of 6 ft apart
- Voting booths will be sanitized after each use
- Ballot marking pens will be used once and replaced with new ones
- Election staffing will be minimized
- Directional and special markings will be taped to the floor and walls
- Voters will be asked to enter, vote, and exit the polling location without delay
- After the close of the polls, observers will be required to use personal protection equipment and will be allowed to observe from a safe distance from each other
Frequently Asked Questions about voting:
Q. How do I vote by mail?
A. You must apply for an Absentee or Early voting ballot first. Applications can be made by email by each individual voter to email@example.com or by downloading from the Town’s website an absentee or early voting application at https://www.townofsomerset.org/town-clerk/pages/annual-town-election-2020-updated-432020 The application can then be dropped in the drop box at Town Hall in the parking lot or mailed to Town Clerk, 140 Wood Street, Somerset. Every voter needs an individual application or email request. When emailing a request, you must specify which election you are applying for or indicate “all elections this year”.
Q. Should I wait until the election is rescheduled to apply for an absentee or early voting ballot?
A. NO! You can apply for an absentee ballot any time for any upcoming election this year, and you can select “All Elections This Year”. You must apply for an EARLY voting by mail ballot for EACH election. Ballots are available now for the Annual Town Election.
Q. How does early voting by mail work for the municipal election?
A. Early voting is allowed for any municipal election held on or before June 30ththis year only. Applications for Early Voting are on the Town’s website at https://www.townofsomerset.org/town-clerk/pages/annual-town-election-2020-will-be-held-saturday-june-13-2020 Voters must apply for an Early Voting Ballot by using the application. Voters will receive an Absentee Ballot marked EV.
Q. What is the difference between an Absentee Ballot and an Early Voting Ballot?
A. When voting on an Early Voting Ballot, the voter CANNOT change their mind and vote in person. Absentee voters can appear to vote in person on Election Day and will be allowed to vote if the voter’s absentee ballot has not yet been cast at the polling location.
Q. If I have already completed an absentee ballot for the April 13th election, will it count or do I need to file another application for the new date?
A. All ballots applied for and completed and received in the Elections office will be counted at the rescheduled election. No further action is necessary.
Q. What is the deadline to apply for an absentee or early voting ballot?
A. Voters can apply for voting by mail right up to noon the day before the scheduled election.
Q. How do I return my ballot and what is the deadline to return the ballot?
A. You can return your ballot by mail or in the drop box outside of Town Hall and ballots must be returned not later than close of the polls (6:00 pm) on the day of the scheduled election. ***NOTE - ON ELECTION DAY, JUNE 13, FOR THIS ELECTION ONLY, ABSENTEE BALLOTS CAN BE RETURNED TO THE POLLING LOCATION (SBRHS) BY AN IMMEDIATE FAMILY MEMBER OR THE VOTER AND DROPPED IN THE DESIGNATED DROP BOX OUTSIDE THE POLLING LOCATION BETWEEN 11 AM AND 6 PM ON ELECTION DAY.
Q. How is my absentee or early voting ballot counted?
A. All mail-in ballots are cast on Election Day in accordance with Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 54, Section 95. Until Election Day, all ballots remain sealed and locked in the elections office and delivered to the polling location by a uniformed police officer. The ballots are further delivered to each precinct Clerk where they are cast through the tabulator in accordance with the law.