Three candidates in the Randolph Town Election are trying to expand walk-in voting hours for the upcoming Town Election on Nov. 5.
Town council candidate Jesse Gordon pushed for the additional hours at a recent town council meeting. He submitted a joint letter to the council supported by what he said were "several" municipal candidates, asking to increase the Town Clerk's office hours in which voters could walk in and "absentee vote" on the spot, he stated.
He requested voting hours for 4:30-7 p.m. Mondays, Oct. 21 and 28 (Town Clerk's office already opened); and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, Oct. 26 and Nov. 2.
The Town Clerk's office has been opened on Mondays until 7 p.m. for convenience - and absentee voting - for 20 years, acting Town Clerk Cheryl Sass wrote in a letter to the town council. She added that she sent an email to Gordon on Aug. 6 stating that, "I may be able to offer a few hours the Saturday prior to the election if staffing and work flow allow, but it is too early for me to make that determination at this time."
She added that once absentee voting begins, she'll determine if the office will be open for voting from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Nov. 2.
However, in her letter to the council, Sass explained that early voting and absentee voting are two very different things. There is no early voting for a municipal election, only for some state elections.
To be eligible for an absentee ballot, voters must either be out of town on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; have a disability preventing them from voting; or be prevented from voting at a polling place due to religious beliefs.
In a press release, Gordon said that 22 percent of eligible Randolph voters cast ballots in municipal elections.
"Defending that current system where 78 percent of our people don't vote is 'voter suppression,' and we need to do better than that," he stated. "We targeted walk-in absentee voting because we think this single policy change will cause the biggest increase in voter turnout – but there are a dozen additional things Randolph can do, too. We'll get to those in the future."
In the press release, town councilor Natacha Clerger said she agrees, but added the law leaves the issue to the Town Clerk's office: "The Randolph Town Clerk will decide later if they will hold Saturday walk-in voting hours. I wish we could plan more in advance, but if enough people show up, the Town Clerk will hold more hours, so I encourage voters to show up at the Town Clerk's office and absentee vote."
School Committee candidate Yahaira Lopez, one of the letter's co-signers, also was quoted in the release that, "We need to improve our voting turnout by giving more opportunities to working families, and those with busy schedules, to be involved civically. We need to find innovative ways to ensure Randolph is reaching out to all of its community members who want to take part of democracy."
Gordon added that people who work all day while the polls are open on Election Day should be eligible for an absentee ballot.
"Just walk in to Town Hall, ask for an absentee ballot, and with a little paperwork, you can vote on the spot – we encourage that," he said.
Gordon, Clerger, and Lopez will hand out blank absentee ballot forms at Town Hall at the times Gordon requested, whether the Town Clerk's office is open or not. They also said they can explain absentee balloting.
"One of the best things about absentee voting is the convenience of being able to do it on your schedule and in the privacy of your own home," stated Town Manager Brian Howard, Randolph's former town clerk. "A voter can email the Town Clerk's Office today and request an absentee ballot be ballot to them as soon as they arrive from the printer."