By Ann Needle
Until now, the advice to “vote early and often” was simply a political wisecrack. Now, the state makes that adage a lot less of a pun with its new early voting system. In Bolton, that means voters can cast their ballots for the Nov. 8 election as early as Oct. 24. The early voting option closes on Nov. 4.
To vote early, Town Clerk Pam Powell said residents must simply drop by her office at Town Hall during normal business hours. These are Monday, Wednesday,Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; and Tuesday, 9am to 4pm and 6pm to 8pm. There will be special hours on Saturday, Oct. 29 and Friday, Nov. 4, both days from 9am to noon. Early ballots are not opened by the town until Election Day.
Also new is the option to vote early by mail. Download the form to vote early at http://www.sec.state.ma.us/EarlyVotingWeb/EarlyVotingSearch.aspx) and mail it to the clerk’s office at 663 Main St. The office will mail ballots starting Oct. 24.
The law—passed by the state legislature in 2014 — does not apply to primaries and local elections, for now.
As for how many early voters to expect, Powell laughed, “I really have no clue. If the word really gets out, we could have a lot of people.” Given the presidential election traditionally brings out Bolton voters—about 88 precent of registered town voters for the 2012 race— residents could well be taking advantage of a more flexible way to vote, she said.
Outside of the formal polls of Election Day, some voters already have the option of casting their ballots through absentee balloting. Residents can do that if they can prove they will be out of town on election day, or have another reason — such as illness — why they cannot make it to the polls. But any registered voter can vote early, regardless of whether they can make it to the Nashoba Regional High School polling place on Nov. 8.
Regardless of how residents choose to vote, the first step is to make sure they are registered to do so by the end of the day on Oct. 19. Voters may register by dropping by Powell’s office, or online at https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ovr/. Registering online requires a valid driver’s license, learner’s permit, or non-driver ID issued by the MA Registry of Motor Vehicles, along with a signature on file with the RMV. Those who do not meet these requirements still can create an application from this online address, and mail or bring it to Powell after it is printed and signed.
Those who are not sure if they are resistered to vote can check their status at https://www.sec.state.ma.us/VoterRegistrationSearch/MyVoterRegStatus.aspx.