WINCHESTER - Thanks to the work of the Massachusetts House and Senate, residents in Winchester will now have three ways to vote in the upcoming state primary election on Tuesday, Sept. 1 and the presidential election on Tuesday, Nov. 3: by mail, early or on election day.

The deadline to register for these important elections is Saturday, Aug. 22 for the state primary and Saturday, Oct. 24 for the presidential. The deadline for a vote by mail application is Wednesday, Aug. 26 for the state primary and Wednesday, Oct. 28 for the presidential.

Residents can vote in person at either the Muraco, McCall, Vinson-Owen, or Lynch schools for the state primary. Polls will open from 7 a.m. - 8 p.m.

In a primary election, a voter who is NOT registered in a political party (Unenrolled or commonly known as Independent) must specify the party ballot type of choice on the application to vote by mail or in person voting (early or on election day).  The Town Clerk is unable to process applications for Unenrolled/Independent voters who do not select a party ballot type on their application.

Unenrolled/Independent voters who select a party ballot type do not become registered in that party - they remain Unenrolled/Independent voters. Voters who are registered in one of the four political parties (Democrat, Republican, Green-Rainbow, and Libertarian) MUST take that party ballot and are not given a choice of ballot type - verify your party enrollment or change your party enrollment prior to the deadline to register to vote and before applying for a mail in ballot.

For those voting in person on election day, all elections are held at the same four elementary school gyms – Precinct 1 & 2 at the Muraco School at 33 Bates Road, Precinct 3 & 4 at the McCall Middle School at 458 Main St., Precincts 5 & 6 at the Vinson Owen School at 75 Johnson Road, and Precincts 7 & 8 at the Lynch School at 10 Brantwood Road.

Because of COVID-19, restrictions, similar to those in place for the town election back in June, will remain. They include wearing a mask, bringing your own pen if you don’t want to use one already there, brining a clipboard or book to mark your ballot on if you don’t want to use a voting booth, bringing an ID (in some cases voters will be required to show an ID), not touching your face will at the polling location, maintaining social distance, i.e. staying six feet apart, and keeping your ballot dry and free of hand sanitizer.

For those seeking to vote by mail, all registered voters qualify. Application post cards have been mailed to ALL registered voters, at their mailing address, who have not already applied to receive a vote by mail ballot as follows: Secretary of State mailed to voters on or around July 15 (primary) and Sept. 14 (presidential); mailed to all voters registered by and voters without an application already processed by July 1 (primary) and Sept. 1 (presidential).

Apply early to allow ample time for processing your application and for the postal services to deliver your ballot to you. If you are concerned about applying too early - please note that voters can hold on to their ballot and return it during the week prior to the election. Voters who receive a vote by mail ballot but do not return it prior to election day may appear to vote in person on election day to cast a ballot. Any voter that has returned a vote by mail ballot (or voted early in person) cannot vote on election day.

Applications can be returned by mail (postage is pre-paid on the postcard application mailed to you), or scanned and emailed to townclerk@winchester.us.

Voters who have applied for a vote by mail ballot may track the status of their application as well as their ballot status (mailed/received back). Please note the Town Clerk anticipates a large volume of applications (there are over 15,000 voters in Winchester) and request you allow at least two weeks before checking the status of your application and allow a minimum of 10 days to receive your ballot from the status date of mailing. Please DO NOT contact the Clerk's Office to check on your status until the recommended amount of time listed above has passed. Inquiries should be sent to townclerk@winchester.us.

Mailed ballots include a postage pre-paid return ballot envelope that is addressed to the Town Clerk's Office. You may return your ballot by mail. Please do NOT leave your voted ballot outside of Town Hall in the drop boxes for general office work of other departments, i.e. building permits or tax collector (deadline to return is close of polls on election day). There will be red drop boxes at the front door of Town Hall for ballot drop off.

Ballots can NOT be returned to the polling location on election day - they must be returned to the Town Clerk’s Office for processing before they are delivered by Town Clerk’s staff to the polls to be cast on election day. Voters who receive a vote by mail ballot but do not return it prior to election day may appear to vote in person and cast a ballot on election day. Any voter that has returned a vote by mail ballot (or voted early in person) is not permitted to appear to vote in person on election day.

Deadlines for ballots to be returned and counted are Sept. 1 at 8 p.m. for the primary election and Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. for the presidential election. These ballots must be dropped off at Town Hall in the red drop boxes at the front entrance. Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by the Town Clerk by 5 p.m. on Nov. 6.

Because the postal service is not consistent and deliveries can range from three to 11 days, the Town Clerk recommends voters return their ballots in the red drop boxes outside the front entrance to Town Hall not later than 8 p.m. on election day to ensure it arrives back in town to count..

For early voting, residents should come to the Town Hall between Saturday, Aug. 22 and Friday, Aug. 28 for the primary. Voting times are as follows: Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. - 1`2 p.m., Monday from 8 a.m. - 7 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. - 12 p.m.

For the presidential election, residents have from Saturday, Oct. 17 until Friday, Oct. 30 to cast their ballot. Voting times are similar to the primary election: Friday, Saturday and Sunday until 12 p.m., Monday until 7 p.m. and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday until 4 p.m.

According to the Town Clerk, no more than five voters will be allowed in Town Hall to vote early at all times.

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