City Clerk Sergio Cornelio and the City Elections Commission is playing a waiting game at the moment, but has some pretty good ideas of what it’s going to take to run two major COVID-19-style elections this coming September and November.
But no idea is certain, Cornelio said, until they get a clear legislative bill from the State House, where the House of Representatives and Senate are still working out the details of how to conduct such a new and different election cycle.
Cornelio said the Commission had a meeting last week to look at what could be done, and they will have another in a week’s time to review what has come out of the State Legislature.
“We’re just waiting for the final bill,” he said. “It’s expected to have early voting, expanded absentee voting and it could give us a chance to reduce the numbers of mandated poll workers at the precincts…We have some ideas already, but we’re eager to get it going. We’re anxious to get the bill because one election – the Primary – is on Sept. 1. If we get the bill on July 1 that only gives us eight weeks. With COVID-19 still going and there are potential layoffs at City Hall and logistical things to work with outside of the election that will affect us, it’s just going to be difficult. We’re figuring out now how to work it out.”
That includes how to staff the polling places.
Poll worker numbers are dictated by state law and hover around five or six per precinct – including one to check people in and one to check people out. Many of those workers in Everett and surrounding cities are older adults, and they have already told Cornelio they are hesitant to come out in public and work the polls in a pandemic.
“We have to figure out how to staff the polls because many of our employees are seniors and won’t want to come work,” he said. “Some have already told us that they won’t be coming. So, we are looking at consolidating several polling places into one poll. We also have many polling places in the schools and they’ll probably be closed or limited. We also have polls in senior buildings and I don’t think we will want to have people coming in there to vote.”
He said the city’s 12 precincts could be consolidated into four buildings for the elections in September and November. That could reduce the numbers of poll workers needed and also the exposure to buildings.
He said there is the possibility of having a 14-day early voting period, and the state City Clerk’s Association is against that idea as they preferred only seven days due to the logistics of handling early voting.
A final, but critical, concern at the polls will be procuring and providing PPE like masks, gloves, and face shields for the poll workers. Just how that will be done and who will pay for it is anyone’s guess right now.
“There are a lot of things going on and we’re just waiting for the final decision from the state,” he said.
The Primary Election will be Sept. 1, and that will include major Democratic races for U.S. Senate (Ed Markey vs. Joe Kennedy III) and State Representative (Joe McGonagle vs. Michael McLaughlin).