The Everett Election Commission has received a surprisingly high number of applications for mail-in ballots just about two weeks after the Secretary of State’s Office sent out applications in the mail.
City Clerk Sergio Cornelio said the Sept. 1 election is wading into territory no one has ever ventured into with regards to conducting a major Primary Election with two big races during a pandemic. One of the unknowns was how mail-in voting would work and if people would subscribe to it.
In a big way, the answer in Everett is yes.
“We’re seeing a significant amount of interest in that,” said Cornelio this week. “We’ve had approximately 2,000 requests for mail-in ballots so far. It might even be higher as I’m being conservative in that estimate. I don’t think we’ll see more than 3,000 votes, but normally we get 5,000 voters in an election of this type. So, you could see 60 percent of the people come out to vote by mail. That will be great for us at the polling places because we won’t have the rush of people that could generate unsafe crowds and lines.”
About 12 days ago, the Secretary of State’s Office sent out mail-in ballot requests to all registered voters in every City and Town. That monumental task came after the State Legislature approved a new voting method in COVID-19 legislation. It only gave the Secretary until July 15 to get the mailers out, and while that date did not get met, they did go out only a few days later – which Cornelio said was plenty of time and has made a splash for those intending to vote.
Cornelio said there are pros and cons to having a lot of mail-in votes, including that on Sept. 1, they will open them at the polling place and process them there – rather than ahead of time.
“There are pluses and minuses to it,” he said. “You have to process them all at the polling place and it takes time. But you have the huge numbers of voters and there will be time to do that work and it will keep poll workers and voters safer. I think it’s a positive overall.”
Those that are not registered to vote did not get the mailers, but they can still register online or at City Hall and have until Aug. 22. In fact, early voting for registered voters will take place in the lobby of City Hall from Aug. 22-28 – another requirement of COVID-19 legislation. Those wishing to vote early can do so between the hours of 2-4 p.m. and then 6-8 p.m. On Aug. 22 – a Saturday – voters can register to vote in person in the City Hall lobby, and there are also five straight hours of voting from 2-8 p.m.
•NEW PLAN TO COME BEFORE COUNCIL THURSDAY
City Clerk Sergio Cornelio said a new plan for polling places will come before the City Council on Thursday that includes a polling place on the west side of the City, specifically in the Madeline English School.
Last week, the City Council balked at the idea of having only a few polling places for the Sept. 1 Primary, and all of them were on the east side of the City. Calling for a better geographic layout, they sent it back to the Election Commission. A meeting last Thursday hashed out the details, and Cornelio said an emergency meeting of the Council online will review and potentially approve the new plan.
The polling places were condensed for the Sept. 1 Primary in order to reduce the numbers of poll workers and to avoid using schools and senior buildings due to enhanced safety measures related to COVID-19.
“We understand the Council’s point,” he said. “The Commission didn’t want to use the Madeline English or the Keverian because they are schools. We were trying to keep schools and senior buildings out in the original plan. However, they aren’t having school now until Sept. 16, so we are able to use them on Sept. 1.”
The plan is as follows:
•Ward 1 – Connolly Center
•Ward 2 – Keverian School
•Ward 3 – Recreation Center
•Ward 4 – Pope John High School (rear cafeteria)
•Ward 5 – Wellness Center (Old High School).
•Ward 6 – Madeline English School.
“The plan from the Election Commission was purely about public safety and keeping people from getting sick,” Cornelio said. “We are working it out now and I think we’ll be successful.”