11th hour write-in campaign launched

Published April 29, 2021


NORTH READING – Since about St. Patrick’s Day, the slate of official candidates for the annual Town Election next Tuesday, May 4 has been known. The seven candidates each submitted their nomination papers with at least the minimum of 50 signatures of North Reading voters who endorsed their respective candidacies by the March 16 deadline to the Town Clerk’s office. All were certified within a few minutes after the 5 p.m. deadline that day by Town Clerk Barbara Stats.

7 official candidates

And, just like last year’s Town Election, none of the four races were contested, so it was shaping up to be a typical low turnout local election. For those who haven’t had this Town Election on their radar, the 2021 slate of candidates are:

• Kathryn M. Manupelli and Stephen J. O’Leary, who are both seeking re-election to three-year terms on the Select Board.

• Dyana M. Boutwell and Richard F. McGowan, who are both seeking re-election to three-year terms on the School Committee.

• Ryan J. Carroll and Jeremiah C. Johnston, who are both seeking re-election to three-year terms on the Community Planning Commission (CPC).

• John J. Murphy, who is seeking his 17th consecutive one-year term as Town Moderator.

This year’s vacancy on the Housing Authority is the appointed seat which is made at the state level so there wasn’t an opening on that board for an elected candidate to the five-year term.

Polls open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

A slightly scaled back in-person voting period at the polls was suggested by Town Clerk Barbara Stats due to the anticipated low turnout. The Select Board subsequently endorsed a time range on the town election warrant of three more hours than she had requested (two extra hours in the morning and one extra hour at night) so the polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 4.

As a reminder, all four precincts vote at one central polling place at St. Theresa’s Parish Hall at 51 Winter Street (enter from the westerly side of the parking lot closest to Kitty’s and drive around the rear of the building, parking either in the rear lot or easterly lot and enter from that door). Those with questions about their precinct may log in at www.northreadingma.gov/town-clerk to check their voting status and voting location, including precinct.

Only about 30 voters had taken advantage of requesting a mail-in ballot by Tuesday at 4 p.m. (the deadline to apply was Wednesday, April 28). These ballots must be returned either by mail or by using the drop off ballot box located next to the main entrance of Town Hall, 235 North St. Voters can deposit their ballots in the distinctive red, white and blue striped box which will be locked when the polls close at 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Write-in campaign launched

Just when you thought you could sleep through this election, late Tuesday night some of the popular social media accounts in town started to buzz about flyers being placed inside certain mailboxes throughout town. Four separate flyers were used to alert the recipients to an organized write-in campaign by three residents seeking support for one write-in School Committee candidate, Allison Stringer, and two write-in Select Board candidates, Jeffrey R. Yull and John P. Barrette. The flyers also endorsed incumbent School Committee member Dyana Boutwell.

None of these flyers were sent to this newspaper by the write-in candidates themselves. Photographs of them appearing on Facebook posts on the North Reading Community Connection page and the Hornets Against Hate page were tagged to the editor around midnight Tuesday.

This write-in campaign is centered around a call for “education transparency” and their opposition to curriculum changes with a request to “vote to stop the Anti-American Indoctrination of your Children and Grandchildren.” This flyer also states: “To Stop This…You Need Them” with one arrow pointing to a photo of flyer on a wall at a school in town which states: “In this class we believe: Black Lives Matter, Love is Love, Science is Real, Women’s Rights, No Human is Illegal, Happiness is Everything” and another arrow pointing to the names of the four candidates being endorsed.

The narrative below the flyer states in part: “Parents all over North Reading are sounding the alarm of how the NR Public Schools are systematically marginalizing today’s children through a curriculum using Social Engineering (the psychological manipulation of…children) & Critical Race Theory, using the classroom as its bully pulpit…”

Whether the flyers will be effective in changing the outcome of next Tuesday’s election remains to be seen, but they did succeed in getting townspeople to talk about an election which a surprising number of people had no idea was taking place.

For nearly 65 years, the Transcript has encouraged townspeople to vote in every election, local or otherwise, to make their voices heard, regardless of the number of contested races, out of respect for the offices on the ballot and the hundreds of hours each candidate is willing to give up on behalf of their friends and neighbors throughout their term.

This newspaper has also always offered free of charge an opportunity for each candidate to submit a candidate’s statement to introduce themselves to their potential constituents. These statements are published in the edition closest to the election. They appear elsewhere in today’s paper.

COVID protocols to be observed at polls

“Even though many persons have been – or will be – vaccinated by Election Day, as of this writing safety protocols issued under the Governor’s Order, as well as by our local Public Safety Officials, will continue to be observed at the polls for the safety and protection of the Election Staff, as well as the voters,” stated Town Clerk Barbara Stats.

• 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 that covers your nose and mouth should be worn before entering the polls and not removed until exiting the polls.

• A face shield is not a sufficient substitute for a mask.

• Observe 6 feet distancing at all times in all areas.

“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 this virus, and we will be expecting all persons to adhere to them for the greater safety of all,” she added.

In-person election-day voting guidelines

• Street directories will be posted on the Hall foyer walls if you do not remember your precinct. To find your precinct ahead go to: www.WhereDoIVoteMA.com or call our office (978-357-5218).

• Check-in, check-out and information tables will have Plexiglas shields for safety.

• Electronic Poll-Pad and paper voting lists will both be used at the check-in tables: A driver’s license placed on the Poll Pad tray will provide a faster check-in, but is not required. The license is not used for ID purposes but merely to expedite the process.

Alternatively, voters may state their name and voting address at the check-in station.

• Each precinct’s polling area will be configured to maximize proper distancing between voters with limited booths to accommodate a limited number of voters at one time.

• In order to prevent cross-contamination, a disposable pencil will be provided to each voter at the check-in table together with their ballot: no ballot marking pens will be in the booths.

• Alternatively voters may bring their own black or blue pens to mark their own ballots. The tabulators read black, blue or hard lead pencil markings, but no other colors. Red pens are limited for use by election staff for the purpose of marking the voting lists.

• After marking their ballot, voters will go directly to the check-out table and state their address and name once again; only a paper list is used at the check-out table.

• After depositing their ballot into the tabulator, the voter should promptly exit the polling area through the rear exit doors (voters with accessibility issues will still be escorted to the door closest to their parked vehicle)

• No lingering or socializing will be permitted.

• In order to avoid cross-contamination, there will be no “I Voted” stickers at the check-out area.

• A trash receptacle will be located by the rear exit doors to dispose of the pencil and any PPE that the voter wishes to discard;

• Please discard all items only in the trash receptacle and not on the church’s property.

“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,” said Stats.

“Please recognize that all of the election staff have volunteered to assist at 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 continuing challenging circumstances,” she added.

Returned ballots must be received back at the Town Clerk’s Office by 7 p.m. at the close of the polls on Election Day (Tuesday, May 4).

Returned ballots may be mailed or placed in the Ballot Drop Box outside Town Hall, 235 North St. The Ballot Drop Box will be locked immediately after the 7 p.m. deadline on election evening. Additional town election information can be found on the Town Clerk’s website at: www.northreadingma.gov/town-clerk.

Contact the Town Clerk’s Office for any additional information or questions at 978-357-5218.