Abington voters will be able to cast ballots between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., when the Annual Town Election rolls around on June 23, selectmen voted Tuesday night.
Selectmen had considered and ultimately rejected a suggestion by Town Clerk Leanne Adams to shorten polling hours in an effort to help keep election workers safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Adams, who proposed opening the polls at 10 a.m. instead of 8 a.m., said with a larger number of people choosing to vote this year by absentee ballot, she is expecting fewer people to show up to vote in person.
“I’m not going to vote for any option to restrict hours,”said Selectmen Vice-Chairman Tim Chapin.
Abington’s Annual Town Elections are traditionally held on the last Saturday in April. However, the state passed an emergency law allowing municipal Boards of Registrars to postpone the election date while the Commonwealth was asking people to remain at home in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading.
Abington’s Board of Registrars voted to move the election date to Tuesday, June 23. At the time the decision was made, Saturdays in June were not available at Emerald Hall, the Central Avenue reception hall that selectmen voted to designate as the town’s single polling location. It’s also the Board of Selectmen’s responsibility to set the hours for voting.
Selectmen Kevin DiMarzio said he would have been more open to adjusting the hours if the town hadn’t changed the date from a Saturday to a Tuesday.
“It’s already going to be confusing,” he said. “I’d like to keep the hours exactly the same.”
Selectmen Ken Coyle and Jim Connolly supported a proposal to adjust voting hours even further, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., thereby giving voters who work in Boston enough time to get home and vote after work.
Chapin, DiMarzio and board Chairman Tom Connolly, opposed it, however.
Chapin said if poll workers are concerned about being inside a room for eight straight hours, that the town should look into splitting the day into four-hour shifts.
Adams has already processed more requests for absentee ballots this year than last year with more than three weeks to go before Election Day. More than 100 Abington residents have so far requested absentee ballots; last year only around 54 voted early.
She said residents can request an absentee ballot in person, via the Town Clerk’s website, or by mailing a signed letter requesting one. She will verify that the requestor is a registered voter and then mail back an official absentee ballot. Voters also have the option of picking up and filling out the absentee ballot at the Town Clerk’s Office.
Acting Town Manager Scott Lambiase, responding to a question from Coyle, said he would look into whether the Clerk’s Office will stay open late any evenings to make it more convenient for voters to cast ballots early.