Opinion: Mail-in votes required for fair election

May 1, 2023

May 1, 2023

To the Editor:

The bedrock of democracy is the right to vote.
In February, the Select Board voted 2 to 1 for citizens' no excuse Vote-by Mail for tomorrow's election. 
Two members, Chairwoman Whiteside and Tricia Wurts, abstained to avoid the look of impropriety as their run for reelection would be affected by Vote by Mail voter expansion. The Mass. Secretary of  State’s voting office made clear that the Absentee Ballot process/forms were illegitimate for Vote by Mail.

Nonetheless, last week I was given an Absentee Ballot application at the clerk’s office when I asked for a Vote by Mail form, and was told the Absentee Ballot was “all the state sent.” Except the state doesn’t send any forms for local elections. The town prints them. 

I returned to discuss this with the clerk the next day, was given a local application, and told the state had just sent them. Before submitting  that application, I subsequently received an official election mail envelope with the Wareham town stamp.

Inside was an “Early/Absentee  Ballot,” a hybrid, by whose authority? The state has not yet voted on a proposed all-purpose ballot. Most concerning, the return envelope was for an Absentee Ballot.  A bright green sticker pointed to where I should sign, directly beneath the state's warning  that “under the penalty of perjury” I did swear I had one of  five exclusive reasons for my right to an Absentee  Ballot. I  could NOT legitimately sign and return my “Early/Absentee” ballot as a no excuse Vote by Mail right. By penalty of  perjury, I had no legitimate vote.

Ballots and voting are not a mix and match proposition. Select Board Slavin, who voted for mail-in voting to encourage greater citizen participation as we have seen at the state and national level,  stated that the Vote by Mail process was pre-funded. And yet....for all the talk of citizen communication and  avoiding the look of impropriety,  no Select Board oversight assured the legitimacy of any Vote by Mail ballot. Will these votes be counted? How many people would not sign an illegitimate ballot return envelope?

Mr. Munise alone has committed to restore Public Comment at Select Board meetings for Board accountability, citizen contribution and clarification that could have explained and strengthened Vote by Mail rather than prevented it.

“Democracy dies in the dark”.


Annie Hayes