Town Election Day hours for in-person voting will be abbreviated this year, due to ongoing coronavirus concerns, and because there are no contested races, Town Clerk Taylor D. White has announced.
The polls will be open from 10 AM to 6 PM on May 6.
Until late last week, Mr. White had been considering keeping the traditional voting hours (7 AM to 8 PM) because there was a chance that a question about replacing the school boilers might have been added to the ballot.
But at a special meeting of four boards last Thursday, March 25, the selectmen, school board, finance, and capital improvement planning committees decided to wait until fall to tackle issues of boilers and other school repairs.
The selectmen also on Thursday night unanimously voted to approve Mr. White’s request to shorten election hours.
“This is a one-time thing,” Mr. White said during a telephone interview on Wednesday. “We are dealing with an uptick of COVID cases and we have no contested races. I’ve never shortened polling hours before, and hope never to have to do it again.”
Mail-in voting will begin in mid-April after the ballots are printed and will continue until 6 PM on May 6. Residents can immediately begin sending requests for ballots to the town clerk’s office.
Mr. White has said that voter turnout—which is traditionally low for town elections—is even lower when there are no contests to be decided.
Other towns throughout Massachusetts had opted to shorten voting hours last year, even when they had contested races, Mr. White said. This year, towns are shortening hours when there are no contested races. Dennis and Reading are among them.
Although the town will save $4,000 to $5,000 in election costs by closing early, not everyone is happy with the decision.
Ed Collupy, an East Sandwich resident and member of the finance committee, said the shortened hours could dampen voter enthusiasm.
“By reducing hours, aren’t we only further encouraging low turnout? Vote-by-mail provisions were extended by the state Legislature for municipal elections, which encourages turnout, but in Sandwich our selectmen voted to work against that,” Mr. Collupy wrote in a letter to the Enterprise.
“Let’s show the selectmen that voting is important by getting out on Thursday, May 6, and also show support and thanks to those who are stepping up to serve our town—they deserve your vote,” Mr. Collupy added.
Early-vote ballot applications can be found under the Election Information tab on the Town Clerk’s page on the town website www.sandwichmass.org.
The deadline for submitting a ballot application is April 30 at 5 PM. Applications may be completed in person at the town clerk’s office at 145 Main Street, and by mail or email.
For more information, contact the town clerk’s office at 508-888-0340.