Mail-in ballot surge driving up numbers ahead of Sept. 1 primary election
Abington voters can start casting their absentee ballots for the state primary election in person on Saturday, when early voting begins at Town Hall.
Early voting runs from August 22 until August 30. The state primary election is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 1.
The Town Clerk’s office will be open both Saturday and Sunday from 2 p.m. – 6 p.m. to allow residents to vote early. Voters can also stop by the Town Clerk’s Office during regular business hours Monday through Friday.
This year’s state primary should see one of the largest turnouts in recent years, due to a new statewide and national focus on absentee and early voting.
Abington Town Clerk Leanne Adams said more than 2,400 Abington voters had requested absentee ballots as of Thursday, which represents a potential significant spike in turnout.
“We never get this many people,” Adams said about the biannual state primary.
A new state law required Secretary of the Commonwealth William Gavin to mail absentee ballot applications to every registered voter in Massachusetts. Voters did not receive actual ballots, but rather applications to request absentee ballots, which they then had to mail to their respective city or town clerk’s office for processing. Another recent change at the state level instituted “no excuse” absentee voting for state elections, dropping a requirement that voters cite a specific reason why they wouldn’t be able to cast a ballot in person on Election Day.
Adams said for several days her office received “stacks and stacks” of absentee ballot applications from residents interested in voting by mail. The extra volume required Adams to bring in volunteers to assist, including former Town Clerk Linda Adams.
Leanne Adams and Barbara Adams are related through marriage.
Both absentee voting and early voting allow voters to complete their constitutional duty ahead of time without going into a polling location on Election Day. With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, some older voters or voters with preexisting conditions are wary about the possible risks associated with turning out to vote.
Through absentee voting, voters can fill out their absentee ballots at home and then either mail them in to or drop them off at the Town Clerk’s Office. During early voting, any voter can check in at the Town Clerk’s office, receive their ballot, and fill it out while at Town Hall.
Right now, Adams said she is only sending out Primary Election ballots. For those who only requested General Election ballots, those will be mailed out in October.
Adams said every step of the early voting process is logged electronically in order to create a papertrail to reduce confusion and possible fraud. For example, voting clerks will know if someone mailed in an absentee ballot and then showed up in person to vote. Likewise, if a voter requests an absentee ballot, but decides to take part in early voting, the town clerk’s office will note that as well.
Voters also have to sign both the absentee application and also the ballot. Adams’ office will then compare the signatures. Committing fraud while voting is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 5 years in jail.
All Primary Election absentee ballots must be received by Sept. 1, Primary Election Day.
The focus nationally has been on the United States Postal Service and possible efforts to slow down mail processing ahead of the November election. Abington’s Congressman, Stephen Lynch, D-South Boston, said two mail sorting machines have already been removed from the regional processing facility in Brockton.
Lynch is facing a primary challenge from Robbie Goldstein, a doctor who lives in the Fort Point neighborhood of Boston.
Adams said, mail-in ballot delays haven’t been an issue in Abington, as the Abington post office has been sorting the ballots in-house and delivering most to Abington residents the next day.
The last day to request an absentee ballot for the state primary is Aug. 26, but Adams said it will be cutting it close to get it turned around and mailed back before voting starts. She said people should consider whether it would be faster to simply stop by Town Hall and vote early.