By “here,” I mean pretty anywhere in the valley. Basically, anyplace in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts which isn’t in the ring designated as “greater Boston” is just a mark on the map.
Voting early requires two things. The first is a ballot which you’d have had to order a couple of weeks ago to be sure it arrived. Back then, our local government was still dithering about how do it. At all. Next, you need someplace to put the ballot where it would get counted. Our Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin comes on the television every night — many times — to explain the process. He’s on all the networks and some of the streaming channels.
“You can,” he says, “pick up a ballot at your polling place,” Nice thought. For us, this would be the Junior High School on Capron Street which was previously the High School. Except it isn’t open and won’t be open until election day or whenever they feel it’s safe to start classes in actual classrooms. In that old building with its tired old air-ducts and lack of A/C — as well as minimal heating — it may never reopen except for the actual day of election itself. It has needed major renovations for years and now, with COVID-19 in the air, I wouldn’t send any child of mine to spend days in that building.
So the polling place is closed. Alternatively, you could — in theory — get a ballot by ordering one online. The (bwahaha) post office would deliver it. They only started giving us this information about 10 days ago. By the time we realized this meant “us,” there wasn’t enough time remaining to get the ballot. Our postal deliveries have always been slow, and now they are really, really slow.
“After that,” announces Bill, “just drop it off at your polling place or in a special election ‘drop box.’ ”
Drop box? Polling place? The polling place is closed. The alternate site would be the clerk’s office in City Hall. That’s closed too and who know when or if it will reopen? It was never open all day every day and that was pre-COVID. In some towns, city hall is always closed. You have to call city hall to make an appointment. It isn’t ever open because there’s no staff. In some of our nearby towns, one person is staff for everything from excise taxes to parking tickets and home assessments.
In Uxbridge, you can call City Hall, but no one will answer. Maybe at some point someone will return your call. I would not hold my breath waiting. Galvin is telling people who live in or near Boston what to do. He is NOT explaining what to do when you live in a small town more than 60 miles outside Boston. He’s talking about Boston itself as well as Boston’s big, expensive suburbs. Maybe Amherst or Springfield has worked something out? I doubt it. They only become a big town when students come for classes — and there are no classes.
To sum it up, you can’t actually get the ballot now. If you already have one, the only way you can use it for voting would be to mail it. Where would you mail it? There’s no address offered for early ballots. I went to Uxbridge’s City Hall website. They didn’t say anything about early voting. The only voting information was that the poll would be open from 7am to 8pm and there is no mention of early voting. Not one word. If you go by the excitement in this town, you think nothing is going on, or if there is, it has nothing to do with us. We aren’t part of this century. I’m not sure we made it to the final years of the 20th.
As Bill Galvin wraps up his speech, his says: “It’s that easy!” I look at Garry. Garry looks back.
“You can’t do that in this town,” I said.
I don’t think you could accomplish early voting anywhere in the Valley … maybe in any part of Worcester County. As for the “larger” towns that aren’t in or near Boston? I doubt there’s better than a 50-50 chance that any plans have been made for early voting, assuming anyone got a ballot. If you live in Massachusetts outside “greater Boston,” unless there’s a murder, huge fire, or you get hit by a blizzard or tornado, you don’t really exist. You’re there, on the map, but that’s it. I remember once hearing the name “Uxbridge” mentioned in the news and once during a weather report. It was so exciting!
This may be the most important election in modern American history, but you’d never guess it unless you live a commutable distance from Boston. I’m voting anyway. The old-fashioned, unsafe for vulnerable citizens way — while wearing my hazmat suit.