Mail-in voting here to stay, Select Board rules

Feb 7, 2023

At its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7, the Select Board voted 2-1 to accept mail-in votes during this May’s Town Election.

The idea of “opting out” of mail-in voting was first discussed at the Select Board’s previous meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 17, and promptly inspired public outcry. 

The Select Board received 40 emails from citizens, most of which were in support of keeping mail-in voting. 

The emails convinced Select Board member Jared Chadwick to vote against opting out. Before casting his vote, he expressed disappointment that only 40 people made their opinions known. 

“I’m a little disgusted by the amount of responses we received,” he said. “If you’re not happy with the outcome, blame yourself.” 

Select Board member Alan Slavin voted alongside Chadwick.

“Opting out is not what people in this town want from us,” Slavin said.

Select Board member Ronald Besse was the lone vote in support of opting out. 

Select Board Chair Judith Whiteside and Clerk Tricia Wurts recused themselves from the vote, citing potential conflicts of interest. 

At the Jan. 17 meeting, Town Clerk Michele Bissonnette said that her understaffed office was unequipped to process the mail-in ballots, or cover the expense of printing them out.

Bissonnette also said that voters could use absentee ballots in place of mail-in ballots, even if they did not qualify for an absentee ballot. 

Local resident Annie Hayes, a proponent of mail-in voting, sent a letter to Michelle Tassinari, director and legal counsel of the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Elections Division, asking if this was true. 

“The simple answer is no,” Tassinari replied. “Absentee ballot applications… require an applicant affirm that they meet the qualifications.”

Tassinari explained that absentee ballots require the voter to sign a statement confirming, under penalty of perjury, that they meet the qualifications. Those qualifications are not being in town during polling hours, disability, religious beliefs, being an active member of the Armed Forces or family member, or being incarcerated for reasons other than a felony conviction.

There are no qualifications necessary for voting by mail.