NEWBURY – With so many changes in how and when voters will be making their selections at the Town Meeting and in the local election, Town Clerk Leslie Haley is working to get clear and accurate information out to the public.
Haley reminds voters that the new date for the annual Town Meeting is June 23 at 7 p.m. at Triton Regional High School, 112 Elm St.
The meeting was initially planned for the end of April but postponed due to stay-at-home orders from the state. Selectmen switched the venue from Newbury Elementary School to the regional campus to better accommodate social distancing recommendations. The deadline to register to vote at Town Meeting is June 3.
The annual town election, postponed from May 12, takes place June 16 with polling from noon to 6 p.m. for both precincts. The voter registration deadline is June 5. Register to vote or update registration at https://www.sec.state.ma.us/OVR/.
A Zoom candidate forum sponsored by The Daily News and moderated by editor Richard K. Lodge is scheduled for May 27.
During the forum, Lodge will ask the selectman candidates a series of questions. Although details are still being ironed out, the newspaper is seeking suggestions for questions from Newbury residents prior to the forum.
There will be a limited number of slots on Zoom for people to watch the forum, but it also will be broadcast live on Newbury community access cable TV. Lodge said candidates running for other town offices will have the opportunity to make a brief statement.
On June 16, voters going to the polls should wear masks, bring their own marking device — no red ink — and they will be required to stay six feet away from other voters and poll workers. Because of the social distancing requirements, voters might have to wait outside the polling locations.
In addition, Haley’s office mailed applications for a mail-in ballot to each household April 14. Applications can also be accessed at www.townofnewbury.org.
“In Massachusetts, we are required to have a request for a ballot. We are not legally allowed to send them without the signed request,” Haley said.
The application can be mailed, faxed, scanned or photographed and emailed to the town clerk. Once the application is received, ballots will be mailed out immediately.
Completed ballots must be sealed in the small yellow “Early Voting” envelope. Voter information and signature must be complete for the ballot to be counted. The yellow envelope should then be sealed in the white and blue return envelope. Ballots must be received before the polls close at 6 p.m. on Election Day.
Haley explained that, technically, absentee voting is for those prevented from voting at their polling place because of absence from town on Election Day; a physical disability; or religious belief; while early voting has not previously been allowed for the annual town election.
However, according to a recently adopted state statute, “... any person taking precautions related to COVID-19 in response to a declared State of Emergency shall also be eligible to request an absentee ballot ...” and “... any eligible voter may vote early by mail for any annual or special municipal or state election held on or before June 30, 2020 ... .”
“The lines have definitely been blurred thanks to COVID-19,” Haley said, adding that the bottom line is people who wish to stay clear of the polls will have the opportunity to do so. “Stay home, stay safe, vote by mail,” she recommended.
To date, Haley reports that 1,316 Newbury voters have requested mail-in ballots. The average voter turnout for a local election over the past decade is 1,350.