Published October 29, 2020

NORTH READING – New vehicular traffic patterns will be in use during the Presidential and State election at the town’s centralized polling place on Tuesday, November 3. Police details will be present to help guide motorists into and around the church property and cross Winter Street for those who park across the street.

All four of the town’s precincts vote at St. Theresa’s Church, 63 Winter Street (Rte. 62 near Rte. 28). As always, the polls will remain open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The deadline for submitting an application to vote-by-mail was yesterday, October 28. Early voting remains an option on Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with the final Early Voting session on Friday, October 30 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“North Reading voters have taken advantage of both of these alternatives to election-day voting, with 4,800 voters requesting early-voted ballots and 2,070 having voted in-person during the Early Voting period through Tuesday afternoon,” stated Town Clerk Barbara Stats.

Even though so many voters have taken advantage of these alternative choices, election-day voting is still anticipated to have a much higher level of participation than other elections because it is a Presidential election and the town now has over 11,900 voters.

Enter from east entrance only

To safely accommodate this higher level of participation under COVID-19 conditions and prevent overcrowding in the church foyer, a plan has been designed to direct voters to enter the hall only through the east-side entrance by the main parking area.

Parking on the west-side lot will be cordoned off. Voters entering the church driveway from Rte. 62 must drive straight past the church and hall to the rear of the building and then take a right into the main east-side parking area closest to the voting entrance of the hall. (Temporary handicap accessible parking will be set up in this lot to accommodate voters.)

Once inside the foyer, voters will keep to their right and continue in one direction down the length of the rear hallway adjacent to the classrooms, to the end of the building and then back up to the foyer area while maintaining proper distancing, which will be identified at 6-foot intervals with cones, tape and other markings.

Election staff will monitor and assist voters in directing them to their precinct and limiting the number of voters who enter each Polling Precinct to the limited number of available voting booths.

Both the west-side and rear entrances to the church hall will remain locked to prevent overcrowding of voters in the foyer waiting to vote. However, these doors will still be functional as emergency exits.

Handicapped parking will be temporarily marked at the parking area directly in front of the east-side entrance to the hall. A diagram of the plan is printed in today’s Transcript.

No electioneering within 150 feet

No electioneering is allowed within 150-feet under state law because polling places are considered an “influence-free zone.” Under MGL Chapter 54 Section 65:

“At an election of state or city officers, and of town officers in towns where official ballots are used, the presiding election officer at each polling place shall, before the opening of the polls, post at least three cards of instruction … ; and no other poster, card, handbill, placard, picture or circular intended to influence the action of the voter shall be posted, exhibited, circulated or distributed in the polling place, in the building where the polling place is located, on the walls thereof, on the premises on which the building stands, or within 150 feet of the building entrance door to such polling place…”

“Accordingly, there can be no distribution or display on any person or attire of any type of election paraphernalia specific to candidates or questions on this ballot,” Stats said. “Articles such as hats, shirts, jackets, buttons, decals, stickers, jewelry, face masks, or any other items which reference either directly by name or indirectly by slogan an affiliation with a candidate or question on this ballot are prohibited.”

Voters who have any such items displayed on their person or clothing will be required to cover or remove such items prior to entering the polling place.

Electronic Poll Pads in use

Electronic Poll Pads will once again be used to check-in voters on election day in tandem with paper voting lists. A driver’s license will provide a more direct check-in, but is not required. Voters may either place their driver’s license on the Poll Pad tray with the barcode facing up, or the voter may simply state their name and address at the check-in table.

THIS MAP of the town’s centralized polling location at St. Theresa’s church hall shows the parking lot traffic circulation and voter parking areas in red and the internal circulation pattern for voters entering and exiting the polls for the four precincts in blue. (Map courtesy of Town Clerk’s office)

“The driver’s license is not used for ID purposes, but merely to provide a direct way to display the voter’s name and address on the Poll Pad,” she explained.

After marking their ballot, voters will check out before depositing the ballot in the tabulator. Ballots should always be inserted into the tabulator gently – not forcefully; the ballot may be inserted in any orientation.

Health and safety protocols

• On election day, health and safety protocols issued under the governor’s order, as well as by the town’s local public health and safety officials, will be observed for the safety and protection of all the election staff, as well as all the voters.

• If you are ill or have a fever – please stay home.

• If you have unexplained chills, cough, sore throat, muscle pain, shortness of breath or new loss of taste or smell – please stay home.

• A mask, bandana, scarf or other facial apparel that covers your nose and mouth should be worn before entering the polling location and not removed until exiting the polls (an exception for medical conditions). Unmasked voters will be escorted to an isolated voting booth for the protection of others.

• Please respect six feet of distancing at all times – distancing must be observed both in waiting lines as well as within the polling area; please be patient.

“Persons who do not follow these protocols are placing others at risk, who may in turn unknowingly expose their own family members or other persons. These safety measures have been shown to be effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19, and we will be expecting all persons to adhere to them for the greater safety of all,” Stats stated.

In order to expedite voting on election day, prepare ahead:

• Vote during mid-day hours to avoid the largest gatherings. Busiest voting periods tend to be between 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.

• Know your precinct. Street directories will be posted and Election Staff Monitors will assist you, but you can also find your precinct ahead at: or call our office at 978-357-5218.

• Review the ballot before you go to the polls to minimize your time at the polls. The offices and candidates are listed on the front of the ballot and two questions are on the back. Specimen ballots will be posted in the church hall and the ballot can also be viewed ahead on the Town Clerk’s website (

• Check your voter status ahead – links can be found on the Town Clerk’s website. Inactive voters will be required to sign an “Affidavit of Current and Continuous Residency” and provide an ID which indicates the voter’s registered name and voting address – be prepared with a driver’s license, car registration, utility bill, etc., which indicates your name and voting address.

In order to minimize exposures:

• Please wear a mask or other facial covering – a face shield is not a substitute for a mask.

• All election staff will be wearing masks and may have gloves and face shields, as well.

• Plexiglas shields will be in place for protection between voters and Election staff.

• Each precinct polling area will be configured to maximize distancing between voters, with limited booths in each Precinct and only two voting compartments available at each booth. This will limit the number of voters at all times; please be patient.

• Voting booths will be wiped-down periodically with sanitizing wipes or spray.

• In order to prevent cross-contamination, a disposable pencil will be offered to each voter at the check-in table together with their ballot and an envelope for sealing the ballot.

• No ballot marking pens will be in the booths.

• Alternatively voters may bring their own black or blue pen to mark their ballots.

• No permanent markers are allow as they will bleed through the ballot.

• The tabulators can read black, blue or hard lead pencil markings, but no other colors.

• After marking the ballot, the voter will go directly to the check-out clerk and provide their street address and name, and then cast their ballot into the tabulator for their precinct.

• After casting their ballots voters must immediately exit the polling area through the rear exit doors so other voters may enter. No lingering or socializing will be permitted within the polling area.

• All voters will exit through the rear door.

• Voters with accessibility issues will be escorted to the exit door and their vehicle if they require assistance.

• To avoid cross-contamination, “I Voted” stickers will not be available at the check-out.

• A trash receptacle will be located by the rear exit doors to dispose of the pencil and any PPE that the voter wishes to leave behind. Please discard all items in this trash receptacle only and not on the church property.

“All of these precautions are necessary to provide a safe voting environment, and for the protection of all voters and the election staff, to the greatest extent possible,” commented the Town Clerk.

“Please also recognize that all of the election staff at both Early Voting and on election-day have volunteered to assist for this election – they are willing to be at the polls to provide voters with the opportunity to vote in-person. Please respect all of these necessary precautions for their safety as much as your own, and please be sure to thank them for their willingness to serve you – the voter – under these challenging circumstances,” Stats said.

A final note about mailed ballots

“If you are returning a mailed ballot, it must be received at the Town Clerk’s office by 8 p.m. on election evening, Tuesday, November 3. The Ballot Drop Box will be checked one final time at 8 p.m. and then locked. Ballots delivered after 8 p.m. will be deemed too late for counting,” she said.

Mailed-in ballots must be postmarked by November 3 and received in the Town Clerk’s office by 5 p.m. on November 6. Returned ballots cannot be accepted at the polls – they must be received at the Town Clerk’s office.

“Ballots received between November 3 and November 6 cannot be counted until after 5 p.m. on November 6 or at a later date within the state deadline for certification of election results,” Stats explained. “Thank you for your understanding and anticipated compliance with these procedures in order to provide a safe voting experience for everyone.”

Go to the Town Clerk’s website for additional information, to view the sample ballot or for links to election information: Contact the Town Clerk’s Office for any further information or questions at 978-357-5218.