WINCHESTER - More changes are on the way thanks to the coronavirus. Winchester has elected to postpone the upcoming town election set for Tuesday, March 31. No new date has been scheduled, though the town can hold the election up to and including June 30.
The town is able to make this decision thanks to legislation drafted by Secretary of State William Galvin on Monday night. The date must be specific, though the town has the authority to change it once it’s finally chosen. Town Manager Lisa Wong on Monday night said she would make a recommendation, and the Select Board has until next Tuesday to pick a new date.
With the board scheduled to meet (via video conference) on Thursday morning and Monday night, they have two opportunities to hold a vote. They must give residents 20 days advance notice.
Voter registration will also remain open up to 10 days before the new election date. Residents can also early vote by mail, as they would absentee, without needing an excuse such as a physical handicap or religious reason.
Because the town charter says spring elections must be held the last Tuesday in March, Town Clerk MaryEllen Lannon suggested the board may vote to keep the election on a Tuesday; however, they may also seek Town Counsel’s opinion on whether they could choose another day, even a Saturday.
The Town Manager also hinted at possibly moving the dates for Town Meeting, set for late April and early May.
Below ate the steps for rescheduling an election:
• Select Board, Town Council, Board of Registrars, or City Council may vote on any day prior to the date of the scheduled caucus or election to postpone the caucus or election to a date certain on or before June 30.
• The Select Board, Town Council or City Council must meet with the local election official and the CEO of the municipality as to logistics and feasibility of rescheduling;
• A copy of the Election Act, vote of the Select Board, Town Council or City Council and a sample ballot shall be placed on the official municipal website at least 20 days before the date to which the rescheduled caucus or election has been postponed;
• Notice shall be provided to the public in other ways reasonably calculated to enable eligible voters to learn of the rescheduled date. Examples of notice include:
• reverse-911 call,
• municipal list-serve notifications,
• advertisement on local cable television, or
• Issuance of a press release sent to the local news media
What is the Last Day to Register to Vote?
• 10 days before the date to which the rescheduled election has been postponed provided that the Board of Registrars shall hold a registration session on that date from at least 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 8 p.m. The voting list to be used at such rescheduled election shall include all eligible voters registered as of that date.
Positions with Expired Terms
• An incumbent elected official whose term would have expired at a municipal town election if the election was not postponed shall continue to serve in the official’s position until their replacement else is elected.
Ballots Already Prepared for Election or Caucus
• Caucus or election materials, including official ballots and absentee ballots prepared for an election postponed in response to COVID-19 may be used for the rescheduled caucus or election to the extent practicable. If additional ballots need to be printed, they should be identical in form to those prepared for the original caucus or election.
• Any absentee ballots received before the close of the polls of the rescheduled election, shall be processed.
• Any voter who chooses to vote in person on the date of the rescheduled election may do so if their absentee ballot has not yet been counted.
• Completed applications to vote by absentee ballot in the rescheduled election shall be accepted by the board of registrars until noon on the last business day before the reschedule election.
Person under Quarantine OR taking Precautions Related to COVID-19
• For an election held on or before June 30, 2020 any person taking precaution related to COVID-19 in response to a declared state of emergency or from guidance from a medical professional, local or state health official, or an civil authority shall be deemed to be unable by reason of physical disability to cast their vote in person at a polling location.
• Any eligible voter may vote early by mail for any annual or special municipal or state election held on or before June 30, 2020.
• Any form of written communication evidencing a desire to have an early voting ballot be sent for use for voting at an election shall be given the same effect as an application made in the form prescribed by the state secretary.
• Local election officials shall send early voting by mail ballots to those who have applied as soon as ballots are available.
• Local election officials may use absentee ballots for those voters requesting to vote early by mail in municipal elections.
• An early voting ballot along with an envelope bearing an affidavit as set forth in section G.L. c. 54, § 25B shall be provided to each qualified voter who participates in early voting by mail.
• No application shall be deemed to be seasonably filed unless it is received in the office of the local election official before noon on the last business day before the date on which the rescheduled election is held.
• Early voting ballots shall be counted pursuant to G.L. c. 54, § 25B and applicable regulations to the extent practicable.
• All early voting ballots voted by mail shall be received by the town clerk before the hour fixed for closing the polls on the date on which the rescheduled election is held.
Municipal Election that Have Already Been Postponed?
• If this Act takes effect after the date of a municipal election or caucus that has already postponed during the declared State of Emergency to Respond to COVID-19, the actions of the Select Board, Town Council, City Council and local election officials to postpone shall be ratified, validated and confirmed as if the Act had been in place.