HANSON — The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, May 5 discussed voter registration and absentee ballot procedures in an effort to reassure voters of their safety during the upcoming town Election.
Absentee and early ballot requirements and procedures are outlined on the town website at hanson-ma.gov.
“The governor has said we can do early voting for Town Election, which they usually don’t do,” said Town Clerk Elizabeth Sloan. “That does not mean people come into the Town Hall and actually vote. It’s just basically absentee voting again, but with no excuses needed. … Early voting is I just want to vote [before Election Day.”
Absentee ballots require voters to attest inability to go to the polls on Election Day due to illness, travel or religious obligation. Early voting ballots must be returned before Election Day and can be deposited in the Town Hall Drop Box.
She said the Town Election cannot be extended beyond June 27. Ballot, however, had not been printed yet and people were still able to return nomination papers until Friday, May 8. The last day to withdraw is Wednesday, May 27.
Town Moderator Sean Kealy discussed a definitive date for the annual Town Meeting, noting there has, as yet, been no advice from health officials on when that might be.
“My main priority is to have a meeting where people aren’t getting sick and we’re not transmitting [coronavirus],” he said. “We’ll do everything that we can.”
Selectmen have already postponed the date to June 15.
“But the closer we’re getting to that date, the less certain I am that people are going to feel comfortable — at the best of times, we have difficulty getting a quorum, let alone when people are still extremely nervous about being out in public, and in an area where it will be incredibly difficult to socially distance if we actually do get a quorum — I get very insecure about the date of June 15,” said Selectmen Chairman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett.
She said Town Planner Deborah Pettey has suggested that classrooms throughout Hanson Middle School could be used for breakout rooms with a designated teller, combined with some form of video conferencing, could be used to ensure safety.
“It sounded incredibly complicated, but I think it would meet some of the needs,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said, expressing confidence that, before the decision needs to be made, more guidance will be available. Town Meeting has had to use the gym for overflow in the past, but Kealy said it gave him concern that some residents were not able to be heard the way they should have been.
Kealy said there are issues on the warrant for which people will be interested in showing up, so lowering the quorum figure would not be beneficial.
‘It seems early to me, too,” said Kealy, noting that Gov. Baker has set a date of Monday, May 18 as the date state businesses begin re-opening. “I would not be surprised to see that extended out.”
His concern was what happens if a Town Meeting does not occur before the June 30 end of the fiscal year.
Town Administrator John Stanbrook said some transfers of funds must be done by June 30, but indicated state officials could approve delays.
“[Lt. Gov.] Karyn Polito was pretty clear at the press conference [May 4] in saying that’s the date we’ve been given as the advisory group to start issuing guidance, but that is not going to be the date everything opens up,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “She was pretty clear about that.”
Select Boards are permitted to postpone town meetings for 30 days at a time, but must permit 20 days for voter registration before a town meeting. That means Selectmen must take a vote on the matter by Tuesday, May 19.
FitzGerald-Kemmett said the board would have Kealy attend the May 19 meeting to continue the discussion.