Wellesley’s effort since early last month to encourage residents to vote from home is paying dividends. The election was originally scheduled for March 17, but was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.
Town Clerk KC Kato gave an update to the Board of Selectmen on Monday during which she said that based on ballots already sent in and those requested, the town would hit about 18% of registered voters doing their civic duty. The 10-year average for local elections here is around 19%. About 2,100 ballots had been requested as of last Monday, and nearly 800 people had already voted. A mailing to households about voting early helped boost the response, Kato said.
So, if all those who have requested ballots so far vote, and more get into the act as well, the town could actually see a higher than usual turnout.
Wellesley is still sorting out when an in-person election will take place, and hopes to make that happen on Saturday, June 13 at Babson College’s fancy and big new gym, which has plenty of parking. Managing the election in one space vs. multiple locations would simplify staffing, ingress/egress, and cleaning, said Kato, addressing questions from one Board of Selectmen member who questioned making a dramatic change in both location and hours of the election.
The town is only legally required to hold 4 hours of in-person voting. Wellesley needs to give a 20-day notice before a new election date is made official. The town’s goal is to push the election out as far as possible but also be able to hold it before Town Meeting, which has also been delayed.
Among the logistics for the town regarding the election is getting protective gear for those working there. Some of the usual poll workers will not want to work due to COVID-19 concerns, but one possibility is that some younger people who might be doing other jobs (like camp counseling) could become available to work the election.
Wellesley hasn’t had other local elections to watch to get any further ideas, though some are slated for the end of this month.
One unexpected issue Kato has had to deal with: “There is a big run on plexiglass by all town clerks.” The plexiglass would be used to protect workers and voters from each other. The good news, she says, is that whatever the town does buy will get multiple uses, including for other events (possible debt exclusion vote) and for town offices as they re-open.