Coronavirus forces Concord to postpone Annual Town Election to June 11
By Rob Fucci
Posted Mar 26, 2020 at 4:33 PM
On March 23, the state Legislature passed and Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law an emergency bill allowing more voters to participate in state elections from the safety of their own home by expanding absentee and early voting by mail. The bill also allows cities and towns to postpone spring elections due to the novel coronavirus, some of which would have begun next week, until June.
On March 26, the Select Board took advantage of the new law and unanimously voted to postpone annual Town Election, which was slated for March 31.
The Board also voted to allow Town Clerk Kaari Tari and Town Manager Stephen Crane to consult on a proposed new date. Tari said she was looking at June 11 as a possible date.
Those in office will maintain their seats through Town Meeting.
An announcement on postponing Town Meeting, slated for April 27, has yet to be made but is expected.
“There may need to be additional postponements,” Crane said.
Election materials from the original date will remain on the ballot and absentee ballots already cast will be counted on June 11.
Voters wishing to cast an absentee or early ballot may submit a written request either with an application that is available online through the Town Clerk’s webpage or any form of written communication that is signed and dated. The voter registration deadline for the June 11 postponed Annual Town Election will be Monday, June 1 at 8 p.m.
Also, given the projected public health situation, the Moderator expects to recess and continue Annual Town Meeting, currently scheduled to begin April 27. The Moderator will announce a determination on Monday, March 30. If the determination is to postpone Town Meeting, a formal declaration will follow later in April with the new date.
During a March 19 Select Board meeting, Crane said Town Counsel had prepared documents for legislators to delay the election in case Baker did not sign the bill.
Common Cause Massachusetts, MassVOTE, the ACLU of Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, Progressive Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Voter Table praised the emergency legislation allowing municipalities to delay their spring elections until June and expanding absentee and early voting by mail, among other reforms.
″(The) bill is a strong first step. However, there is no guarantee that the Coronavirus crisis will have receded by September 1, when Massachusetts state primaries are scheduled, or even for the November elections,” the groups said. “The Election Modernization Coalition urges the Legislature to recognize that this crisis is of indeterminate length, and that we must also act quickly to ensure that the fall’s elections take place as scheduled, maximize participation, and maintain public health. To that end, the Legislature must protect the ability of all eligible voters to cast ballots from home in all elections, and ensure that in-person voting is as safe and participatory as possible.”
The last day to register to vote for any annual or special municipal or state election postponed pursuant to this act or otherwise postponed in response to COVID-19 shall be 10 days before the date to which the rescheduled election has been postponed.
Absentee ballots cast in connection with the original election date shall be processed in accordance with applicable law; provided that any voter who chooses to vote in person on the date of the rescheduled election may do so if their absentee ballot has not yet been counted.
For an election held on or before June 30, any person taking precaution related to COVID-19 in response to a declared state of emergency or from guidance from a medical professional, local or state health official, or any civil authority shall be deemed to be unable by reason of physical disability to cast their vote in person at a polling location.