On Friday, August 1, 2020, Town Clerk Shavena Martin answered several of the questions and concerns that have been raised by the Indy about the proposed change to a single polling station in Amherst. Below is a summary of the questions and answers. Martin also wanted to let our readers know that she welcomes feedback and finds it valuable in identifying issues that the task force charged with studying this proposal may not yet have identified. She asks that people send an email to email@example.com or call the office at (413) 259-3035 to share their thoughts. The Indy would also like to make those questions and answers available publicly here so please forward questions/answers to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Indy will update this article as new information becomes available.
Q: Has Julie Federman (Director of Public Health) been directly involved in the development of the single polling station proposal?
A: No, the task force did not consult with Ms. Federman and has used national (CDC) and state (DPH and Secretary of State) guidelines. Currently, they are awaiting an assessment by the Schools Facilities Manager (Rupert Roy-Clark) regarding ventilation at the high school gym.
Q: How many registered voters have submitted requests for mail in voting ballots to date (August 1)? How many of them are UMass students?
A: As of August 1, 3,500 requests for vote by mail have been received by the Town Clerk’s office. The number of college students who have requested vote by mail is not currently known.
Q: Since Superintendent Morris has indicated that, in future, schools will have Professional Development days scheduled for all elections, could the elementary schools or middle school be used as polling stations without causing the issues that have been of concern?
A: The possible use of any school as a polling stations is up to the Superintendent of Schools.
Q: Are vote by mail (no excuse) and early voting also going to be permanent or just for this year?
A: The legislation that allows no excuse voting by mail is a temporary change that will expire on December 31, 2020.
Q: If the Town Council votes to change to a single polling station for the Primary election and there are problems/concerns (for example, a very large number of in person voters), can the town revert to multiple polling stations for the General Election in November?
A: Yes. If the Town Council votes to make the change “permanent”, it would have to vote to change the polling stations again and there would be ample time to do so between elections. The Town Council could also vote to make the polling station change for a specific time frame.
Q: Can in person voting occur outdoors (for example, under tents)?
A: The Secretary of State has indicated to the Town Clerk that this is not permitted.
Q: Who will coordinate and pay for shuttle service to transport voters who show up a current polling stations to/from the high school gym? How does this comport with COVID guidelines?
A: The Senior Center director provided the task force with information about shuttle service guidelines and has offered the use of their senior shuttle, which has a lift for accessibility. The Superintendent of Public Works has been asked to find out what DPW vehicles are available.
Q: Should everyone have received the postcard from the Secretary of State to apply for voting by mail by now?
A: Yes. Many postcards have been returned to the Secretary of State as undeliverable. If you have not received yours and you want to vote by mail, you should fill out this form and return it to the Town Clerk’s office ASAP. Applications for vote by mail ballots must be received at the Town Clerk’s office by August 26 for the State Primary and October 28 for the Presidential election. The application for the vote by mail ballot can be found here.
Q: When must completed vote by mail ballots be returned to the Town Clerk in order to be counted?
A: Completed ballots must arrive at the Town Clerk’s office by September 1 for the State Primary and by November 6 for the Presidential election.
Ballots can be mailed or deposited into a new ballot drop box located at the Main St. side of Town Hall. The Town Clerk hopes to have this ready for the Primary and is confident it will be available for the Presidential election.
Q: Is the Town Clerk’s office still looking for poll workers for election day and early voting days?
A: Yes! Please go the “Jobs” page on the Town website and fill out the application for “Election Worker”.