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HomePoliticsTown forgoes mail-in ballots for April election

Town forgoes mail-in ballots for April election

abass@northstarreporter.com

North Attleborough voters will be unable to vote early by mail in the upcoming Town Election on April 2.

The Town Council voted 7-0 on Jan. 22 to opt out of early mail-in voting for local elections at the request of the election department. Council President Justin Pare and Councilor Darius Gregory were absent from the vote.

Election Coordinator Patricia Dolan said the department’s decision to forgo early mail-in voting for this election was based on several factors, specifically the need for more staffing.

According to Dolan, the department receives mail-in ballots 10 days before the election. Per her estimates, the town would receive 5,000 ballots to be sent out to voters, who would need to send them back through the mail before the election. Dolan said she only has two employees in her office and it takes seven minutes to ensure the ballot is correctly processed.

“It’s incredibly hectic,” Dolan told the council. “It puts a strain on poll workers.”

Additionally, Dolan said the recent flooding in September 2023, resulting in the town hall basement sustaining damage, which resulted in the department not having a space to process the ballots.

“It will be difficult to find a spot in the town hall to process the ballots,” Dolan said. “I know we won’t be able to fit it in my office if we did that.”

In 2022, then-Gov. Charlie Baker signed the VOTES Act into law, making no excuse for permanent mail-in voting in Massachusetts. Per the law’s text, towns can opt out of mail-in voting for any local election. The law requires mail-in ballots to be available for state and federal elections.

Dolan said she expects turnout to be low for this year’s election as School Committee Chair Tasha Buzzell, Katherine Hobbs and Joe Flahtery are the only candidates up for re-election this year. So far, the candidates have yet to file papers for re-election.

Doland told the council that absentee voting will still be allowed this year. Still, voters who wish to file an absentee ballot need a legitimate, such as having a disability or living out of town. Dolan said the department would ensure that the news regarding the town’s decision to opt out of early mail-in ballots would be posted online along with the requirements needed to file an absentee ballot.

“People like voting by mail,” Dolan said. “Anyone can file for an absentee ballot if they meet one of the requirements.”

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