Published in the October 28, 2016 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — Maybe some of it is the novelty but what’s undeniable is that the town’s inaugural venture into early voting has been a huge hit with Wakefield voters.
As of 1 p.m. yesterday, 1,343 Wakefield voters had cast early votes at Town Hall ahead of the Nov. 8 Election. Add in the 551 absentee ballots that have been cast and it means that an average of over 500 votes a day have been cast since early voting began on Monday.
“It’s going like clockwork,” said Town Clerk Betsy Sheeran as she was leaving the WCAT studios yesterday where she had just finished taping a new edition of her monthly cable TV program, “The Town Clerk’s Report.”
“If it keeps up at this rate we’ll have 25-30 percent of the votes in town cast before Election Day,” Sheeran said. Voters can cast early ballots through next week.
In 2014, Massachusetts passed an election reform law allowing early voting every two years in the November election. This is the first election in which early voting has been offered in the state. As of this time, early voting will not apply to municipal elections.
According to the text of the law, “Qualified voters may vote early in person at the designated early voting location or by mail. A voter may only vote early by mail or at an early voting location for the city or town in which he or she is registered to vote.”
The law states that early voting “shall be conducted within the usual business hours of each local election official.” However, a city or town may choose to provide for additional early voting hours beyond what is required, including weekend hours.
In Wakefield early voting will be available through next Friday, Nov. 4 during the Town Clerk’s regular business hours: Monday – Wednesday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Thursday, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.; and Friday, 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
In addition, the Town Clerk’s Office will offer Saturday hours for early voting tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
For going the extra mile, including offering Saturday hours, Sheeran was one of only a few city and town clerks in the Commonwealth to be honored by the state for her work to promote and facilitate the process of early voting.
State Representatives Donald Wong and Paul Brodeur were in town last Friday along with State Senator Jason Lewis to present the award to Sheeran on behalf of the state’s Election Modernization Commission. The Silver Medal Award was given to Sheeran and the Town of Wakefield “for providing substantial Early Voting opportunities for its citizens.”
But Sheeran is quick to share the credit.
“It’s teamwork,” she said. “It could not be done without the team of Rose Morgan, Denise Oates and Adam Pinkney. I couldn’t have a better team.”
When an early voting application is filed in person at the Town Clerk’s Office, the staff will give the voter the appropriate early voting ballot and any accompanying papers. The town has provided several voting booths like the ones at the polling places on Election Day so voters can have privacy when they mark their early ballots. After marking his or her ballot, each early voter will enclose it in the envelope provided, execute the affidavit contained thereon and seal the envelope before returning it to the election official.
Sheeran praised her staff, all of whom have pitched in to assist early voters even as they handle the regular day-to-day business of the Town Clerk’s Office.
“I couldn’t be any happier with the way things are going,” Sheeran said. “Our goal is to keep it running smoothly with a minimum of waiting.”
Sheeran also gave kudos to the voters, who she said have had no problem with the early voting process.
“They are coming in with a purpose,” Sheeran said, “and they know what they want to do.”