Early voting is a hit with local residents.
“We’re doing very well and people seem to really appreciate it, that’s the best part,” said Hanson Town Clerk Elizabeth Sloan. “I would like to see it for all elections. I think it’s great.”
Whitman Town Clerk Dawn Varley would agree, as 2,210 residents turned out to cast early ballots along with 276 absentees between Oct. 24 and Nov. 2 — and there were two days left in the early voting window, which closes at the end of the business day on Friday, Nov. 4. Hanson’s total as of Nov. 2 was 1,160 with 220 absentee ballots.
“We’re very busy today, very pleasantly busy,” Varley said during the extra Saturday early voting hours Whitman offered Oct. 29. “During the first hour today we had about 100 people.”
Working couples with families and seniors hesitant to stand in long lines seem to appreciate the convenience equally, Sloan said. As she spoke, all five of the voting booths set up in her office and the hallway outside it were busy and more people were arriving to cast ballots.
“They don’t have to make their families drive them, it’s difficult to make arrangements because they’re working,” Hanson resident Leah Guercio said of her fellow seniors as she waited for a friend to finish voting Friday, Oct. 28. Guercio works with the Hanson Multi-Service Senior Center’s supportive day program.
“I love it,” another resident said as she checked in to vote early at the Hanson Town Clerk’s office. “It’s amazing. I don’t know how anybody else feels, but I think it’s wonderful.”
“They love it,” Varley agreed regarding Whitman voters.
Whitman saw more voters cast ballots before the end of its second day, nearly 600, than turned out for the state primary in September, according to Town Administrator Frank Lynam at the Oct. 25 meeting of Whitman Selectmen. Only 375 people voted in that primary in Whitman.
“It’s amazing the traffic that’s coming in [Town Hall] just to early vote,” Lynam said.
By the morning of Oct. 28, Sloan had seen 540 early voters cast ballots and had received another 200 absentee ballots. Whitman also had about 200 absentee ballots before they dropped off during early voting. She said absentees will resume once early voting ends.
“I think there’s a lot of people that just don’t want to wait in line,” said Whitman Selectman Brian Bezanson, who also reminded residents watching the Oct. 25 meeting on Whitman-Hanson Community Access TV to vote on Election Day, Nov. 8. “It’s obviously a very important election and we need as many people as possible to chime in on this as we can. There’s many ways to vote, so please do it.”
In addition to early voting — from Oct. 24 to Nov. 4 — and regular voting hours from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 8, voters unable to go to the polls in some circumstances may cast absentee ballots.
Whitman Selectmen Chairman Dr. Carl Kowalski, who voted early, had a concern about the security of the process.
“I’ve had a lot of questions,” Varley said as she checked in voters Saturday. “I’ve had a lot of people questioning how many hands are going to touch these ballots, what happens to these ballots — things like that. My answer to them is, if you want to know what happens to your ballot show up here on Nov. 8 at 8 o’clock at night, and you’ll see.”
Early voters place their ballots in a signed and dated sealed envelope, which poll workers run through voting machines in the appropriate precincts on Election Day.
“They do that at a time when they don’t have heavy voting, because the folded ballots could jam the machine,” Lynam said.
“Whoever opens it, knows how I voted, if he or she decides to glance,” he said. “This is something that struck me.”
Varley said the security of ballots is an issue she takes very seriously.
“It’s a process,” she said. “We have to do the check-in and the check-out for your ballots. This makes more work for the clerks.”
Selectman Daniel Salvucci said he has also spoken with Varley, principally about the time involved in counting the ballots Nov. 8, noting a final tally in Whitman is expected to be available by 11:30 p.m. that night.
“She also said that, if we wanted to, the room will be open [during the count], but lines will be drawn where people can stay there and watch them do what they have to do,” Salvucci said, echoing Varley’s comments. “You have to stay a certain distance away.”
“The final numbers are going to take a while on Election Night,” Kowalski said of the time involved in processing early ballots in the 28 states and the District of Columbia, where early voting is permitted. Another 20 states allow early votes with an excuse. There are 10 states that still prohibit early voting.