With the presidential election a little more than a month away, voters are reminded of some important dates.
The deadline for registering to vote in the Tuesday, Nov. 8 election is 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 19. Early voting begins on Monday, Oct. 24, concluding on Friday, Nov. 4.
“Registered voters do not need an excuse or reason to vote early,” said Hanson Town Clerk Elizabeth Sloan. “The first step is making sure you are registered.”
Sloan is ready for early voting, having set up four voting booths — two handicapped accessible — behind the counter in her office. In Whitman, the early voting booths are now on display in the corridor outside the Town Clerk’s office, but will be moved into the auditorium by Oct. 24.
Absentee voting will also be conducted as usual for the Nov. 8 Election Day.
“Anyone who is 18 on or before Nov. 8 can vote, but must register by Oct. 19,” Whitman Town Clerk Dawn Varley said. “A lot of the young kids think they can’t vote because the deadline is Oct. 19.”
Whitman early voting hours [Oct. 24 to Nov. 4] are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and special hours on Saturday, Oct. 29 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The application deadline for early voting by mail is noon on Friday, Nov. 4. The Whitman Town Clerk’s office will be closed to all non-election business on Nov. 8.
In Hanson, early voting is available during business hours: Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Friday, 8 a.m. to noon. Registered voters also have the option to request an early voting ballot through the mail. Simply fill out an application and mail it to Town Clerk, 542 Liberty Street Hanson, MA 02341.
Former Gov. Deval Patrick signed the election reform law on May 22, 2014 to allow early voting in state biennial elections, starting 11 business days before an election and ending two business days before Election Day.
The election reform law also permits early registration for 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, although they would not be permitted to cast ballots until age 18. For more information on registering to vote or to obtain an early voting by mail application, visit the Secretary of State’s website at sec.state.ma.us.
The law also requires the state to audit 3 percent of precincts during presidential election years to make sure voting machines are working correctly. It establishes a task force to pin down the cost and administrative requirements of the early voting provision and examine other voting issues such as same-day voter registration.
A Republican-backed provision for voter ID cards was rejected by lawmakers.
Expecting a 75-percent turnout for the presidential election, Varley has asked for, and received, Whitman Selectmen’s support for safety procedures she plans to institute at Town Hall on that date. The measures have been used before in high-turnout elections and center on restricting parking and charitable solicitations.
Town Hall employees and election workers will be required to park at the police station on Election Day to free up Town Hall parking for voters. Employees and election workers will be shuttled to Town Hall. Parking along South Avenue from Day Street to the center of town will be limited to a half-hour on a temporary basis.
The 150-foot “no electioneering” rule around Town Hall will be enforced, including fundraising efforts by Dollars for Scholars and other groups.
Voters have also been receiving the “Massachusetts Information for Voters” booklet on the 2016 Ballot Questions from the office of Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin.
The 29-page, newsprint booklet provides the text and summaries of the four questions, an explanation of what yes and no votes will do, a statement of fiscal consequences, and arguments from representatives on both sides of each issue.
A clip-out voter checklist is printed on the back cover for voters to use to note how they intend to vote as a pocket reference to take with them to the polls.
Question 1 refers to expanded slot-machine gaming; Question 2 asks whether charter schools should be expanded in the state; Question 3 refers to the conditions in which farm animals are raised and Question 4 involves whether marijuana should be legalized, regulated and taxed.
The booklet is mailed to residential addresses of registered voters, group quarters and convenient public locations throughout the state. To obtain a copy, call Galvin’s Elections Division at 617-727-2828 or 1-800-VOTE (8683) or the Citizen Information Service at 617-727-7030.