Published October 29, 2020

CHRIS HAYDEN of Swan Pond Road stops at the check-in desk to receive his ballot at the Town Hall gym during Saturday’s Early Voting session. He was assisted by poll workers Sally Meredith (left) and Patty Bemiss. Those who missed the last two Early Voting sessions today or tomorrow may still vote in person on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, at St. Theresa’s church hall from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Maureen Doherty Photo)


NORTH READING — An exceedingly long presidential election season is nearing its end.

Election Day is next Tuesday, Nov. 3 and the polls will be open for in-person voting for all four precincts in town at St. Theresa’s Church Hall, 63 Winter St. from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. All social distancing protocols will be in place, marked by cones and arrows, with extra poll workers on hand to guide voters to the right location and ensure six feet of minimum distance be maintained and face masks are worn. (Those who cannot wear a mask will have a separate area in which to vote.)

The battle for the presidency of the United States between Donald J. Trump and his V.P., Mike Pence, the incumbent Republicans, and Democrat Joe Biden, the former V.P. under President Obama, and his running mate, Kamala Harris, will be debated and digested for generations.

But for those living through it in real time, interest in the outcome, both locally and throughout the country, has never been more intense.

In North Reading, an additional 365 citizens have registered to vote since the Sept. 1 primary, including 193 in the last week prior to the Oct. 24 voter registration cutoff date for this election. Currently, there are 11,909 registered voters in town. And 17.38% of them have already cast an early ballot — a total of 2,070 had voted by Tuesday, Oct. 27 at 3:30 p.m., with 2 1/2 days of early voting remaining as the Transcript went to press.

For the first time ever, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Massachusetts sent every registered voter an application to request a mail-in ballot with no excuses necessary, as opposed to an absentee ballot, which requires an application to be sent to the Town Clerk stating one of three specific reasons the voter cannot vote in-person (illness, absence from the community on voting day or religious reasons, which may be applied for until noon the day prior to any election).

A total of 4,800 residents took advantage of the mail-in ballot option and of those, 239 through Tuesday had chosen to vote in person during the two-week Early Voting period (which ends Friday at 12:30 p.m. at Town Hall).

CLARE PICCIUTO, 104 years young, who was born in 1916, four years before women had gained the right to vote in the U.S. following ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution on August 18, 1920, proudly cast her absentee ballot in the 2020 Presidential election on Friday. Celebrating with her were her daughter, Deb Picciuto (left), and her granddaughter, Elisabeth Watson. (Courtesy Photo)

The Town Clerk’s office is tracking this statistic to ensure duplicate ballots are not received.

Mail-in ballots cannot be dropped off at the polls on Election day but they can be deposited in the drop box in front of Town Hall designated for this purpose by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3, at which time it will be locked because the polls will have been closed. (It will also be locked between 1 p.m. Oct. 31 and 9 a.m. Nov. 1 to prevent any Halloween vandalism.)

Ballots may also be sent through the U.S. Mail. As long as ballots are postmarked by Tuesday, Nov. 3 and received by the Town Hall by 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 6, they will be counted in the election results.

Wednesday, Oct. 28 was the last day to request a mail-in ballot, but that would not guarantee it would reach the voter prior to Nov. 3 so early applications have been encouraged for months.

Full details on where, when and how to vote may be found elsewhere in today’s Transcript, including a map of the centralized polling place at St. Theresa’s detailing both vehicular traffic and parking and the interior foot traffic to ensure social distancing in the church’s foyer and hallways.

Contested races, ballot questions

In addition to the Trump-Pence and Biden-Harris tickets, the Green-Rainbow Party candidate for president is Howie Hawkins and Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen.

House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading) is facing off against Democratic challenger Michelle Mullet of North Reading in the race for the 20th Middlesex District in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Jones has been a member of the House of Representatives since January 1995 and has served as minority leader since 2003.

Mullet is a former member of Flint Memorial Library’s Board of Trustees and has worked for the ACLU, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and the Sierra Club.

Candidates’ statements from both Jones and Mullet detailing their accomplishments and goals are published elsewhere in today’s Transcript.

TWO-YEAR-OLD Connor McDonald was very excited to help his mom Stephanie safely cast her ballot Friday afternoon at Town Hall. Connor reminds voters there are two days left for Early Voting: Thursday, 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. and Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (Stephanie McDonald Photo)

Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton is running for a third term against Republican challenger John Paul Moran of Billerica in the 6th Congressional District race.

Sen. Edward Markey, a Democrat, is running against Dover Republican Kevin J. O’Connor in the race for U.S. Senate.

There are three candidates running unopposed in next week’s election, including Democratic Fifth District Governor’s Councilor Eileen Duff of Gloucester.

State Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), the Senate Minority Leader, who is running unopposed in the First Essex and Middlesex District.

And incumbent Middlesex County Register of Probate Tara E. DeCristofaro, a Democrat of Medford, who is also running unopposed.

North Reading residents will also select their representatives to the Regional School Committee for Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational School in Wakefield. Each of the 12 communities has a seat on the board. North Reading resident Judith Dyment is running unopposed to retain her seat. Two communities have a race for their respective seats, Melrose (Ward Hamilton or Andrew White) and Revere (Anthony Caggiano and Melissa Jannino-Elam) while Winchester and Winthrop did not field candidates.

Ballot questions

There are also two questions voters appearing on the ballot.

Question 1 asks voters to approve a proposed law that would require that motor vehicle owners and independent repair facilities be provided with expanded access to mechanical data related to vehicle maintenance and repair. A yes vote would provide motor vehicle owners and independent repair facilities with expanded access to wirelessly transmitted mechanical data related to their vehicles’ maintenance and repair. A no vote would make no change in existing law.

Question 2 asks voters to implement a new voting system called ranked choice voting. According to Question 2, voters would be able to rank one or more candidates in order of preference if the law is enacted.

If Question 2 passes, ranked choice voting would be used in primary and general elections for all Massachusetts statewide offices, state legislative offices, federal congressional offices and certain other offices. The law would go into effect in 2022. Ranked choice voting would not be used in elections for president, county commissioner or a regional district school committee member.

A yes vote would create a system of ranked choice voting in which voters would have the option to rank candidates in order of preference and votes would be counted in rounds, eliminating candidates with the lowest votes until one candidate has received a majority. A no vote would make no change to the state’s existing voting laws.

 Lynnfield Villager Associate Editor Dan Tomasello

contributed to this report.