Published in the October 11, 2018 edition

The following refresher on the state’s Early Voting law was provided by Town Clerk Barbara Stats

NORTH READING — For the second time since its implementation, Massachusetts voters will be able to vote early for the Tuesday, November 6 State Election.

Early Voting became the “law of the land” in Massachusetts with the passage of Chapter 111 of the Acts of 2014 (the Election Reform Bill), signed into law on May 22, 2014. Under this law, the provisions for Early Voting first became effective with the State (Presidential) Election in 2016, and thereafter for every biennial State Election.

Unlike absentee voting, which has always been available in Massachusetts for voters who “qualified” under one of three reasons (absence from the city/town during polling hours, disability or religious beliefs) and which requires a signed application by the voter or a family member, voting early does not require a specific reason or an application to participate – simply stated, it can be just for the convenience of the voter. Early Voting has basically been considered “no excuse” absentee voting and is open to all registered voters.

The dates, times and location for early voting are set by statute and are to be held for the two weeks prior to a biennial state election, during the regular business hours of the municipality, at the city/town hall (unless deemed unsuitable).

A municipality may conduct early voting at additional locations or for additional hours beyond the normal business hours. Many larger communities, in particular cities, have multiple locations to accommodate their larger geographic areas; and many communities may opt to have extended hours, although such is not required.

Extended local EV dates

 Just as in 2016, in addition to the normal business hours of Town Hall required for Early Voting, North Reading voters will also have extended Early Voting hours available to provide more opportunity and convenience.

For North Reading voters, Early Voting will take place at the Town Hall from Monday, October 22 through Friday, November 2 during regular business hours (Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., and Friday from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m). In addition, extended voting hours will be available on each of the two Tuesdays during the early voting period (October 23 and October 30) from 4 – 7 p.m., as well as Saturday, October 27 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. (see Early Voting notice elsewhere in this newspaper edition).

In 2016, Early Voting was well-received by North Reading voters, as almost 31 percent of the registered voters (3,498) took advantage of this process.

Electronic Poll Pads will be utilized for the check-in process for Early Voting just as they were in 2016. The use of these devices is approved by the Secretary of the Commonwealth for Early Voting and provides a paperless check-in process through an electronic copy of the voting list, which is uploaded onto the Poll Pad.

Providing a driver’s license will further expedite the check-in process, but is not required. The barcode on the back of the license can be scanned by the Poll Pad to display the voter’s name and address on the electronic voting list and the voter can be processed immediately.

It is important to note that providing a driver’s license is not required, is not used for ID purposes, and no information from the barcode scanning process is stored on the electronic Poll Pad. It merely provides a look-up tool which can expedite the voter’s check-in experience. However, any voter who chooses not to provide his or her license or who may not have their license with them can simply state their name at the check-in table and they will be processed just as they are at the polls on any election day. In addition to using Poll Pads for Early Voting, North Reading has continuously used these devices for the check-in process at all Town Meetings since the 2016 State Election.

Election Day voting

For those who prefer the “tradition” of voting on election day, the polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Tuesday, November 6. Any person registered by the Wednesday, October 17 deadline will be eligible to vote regardless of party affiliation.

Voters who are designated as “Inactive” must still provide ID and sign an “affidavit of current and continuous residency,” regardless of whether they vote early or at the polls. The Town Clerk’s website has additional information and links regarding voter status, eligibility and early voting, as well as an electronic copy of the ballot and links to the SOC website for the three ballot questions.

Please contact the Town Clerk’s Office at 978-357-5218 for further information.