Prior to March 13, the biggest thing on the minds of a lot of people in Everett and around the country was the presidential election in November 2020.
People couldn’t wait to get to the polls no matter what side they preferred.
But now the polling places could be dangerous in the era of COVID-19, and with the potential of another surge of cases in the fall, City Clerk Sergio Cornelio said he and other City Clerks around the Commonwealth are planning for what the 2020 Election might look like.
Cornelio said he is one of three Board members on the state City Clerk’s Association and they are talking weekly about what Election Day will encompass – everything from pending legislation on Beacon Hill to how to outfit poll workers with the appropriate PPE.
“We definitely know it’s not going to be business as usual,” he said. “I’m working on making sure we have enough PPE prepared. Our Election Commission and Election Commissioners will be making decisions soon on this.”
In Everett – and in all of Massachusetts – there is an important Primary Election that will happen in early September as well. That will feature prominent races for U.S. Senate and for State Representative. That will likely be a test case for what the system can tolerate in November.
Cornelio said there are many bills in the State Legislature looking to amend the way voting happens. At issue the most is mail-in voting, which could be good if handled well, he said.
“Mail in voting is a good thing to some degree, but some of the proposals go too far we think,” he said.
One of the proposals that has some popularity at the municipal level is a modified form of absentee balloting proposed by Secretary of State Bill Galvin.
Absentee ballots have always been available to vote by mail, but they have always required a legitimate excuse such as an illness or traveling outside the state. The new proposal would allow anyone to request an absentee ballot without a need for an excuse in order to limit contact with others by going to the polls and potentially having to wait in a line to vote.
“That would be no-excuse absentee voting,” he said. “It will be like a normal mail-in ballot, but you still have to request it…It’s a lot of figure out and we have to do it soon.”