EARLY VOTING IN A SMALL TOWN

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.

Main Street

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.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

“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.

Main Street, Uxbridge in front of City Hall.

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.



Categories: Election, Gallery, New England, Photography

Tags: , , , , , ,

20 replies

  1. I do hope you will be able to vote. I could not believe it this morning when I heard Trump complaining that people were being sent ballots even if they hadn’t asked for them. I should stop being shocked at the stuff he says but I can’t help it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Trump does not understand the multiplicity of systems already available, and makes up a lot of what he says. In this case, though, his comment is partially true. California has purged duplicate voter registrations, and will send vote-by-mail ballots to all registered voters in the State. Additionally, if a voter doesn’t receive a ballot, they can go to the polling place, reregister on the spot, and vote at that time. On the face of it, that’s overkill, but returned ballots are checked for valid signatures on the envelopes before being counted, and it would be almost impossible to defraud the system. We will not know on election night who won the election, but that’s a small price to pay to allow every qualified voter to cast a ballot.

      Liked by 1 person

      • In Australia we have had a few tight elections where the outcome was not known on election night. Sometimes it has taken more than a week for all votes to be counted. We have compulsory voting though which does make a difference. They have to make it easy for us to vote.

        Like

    • It’s too late to get an early return ballot here anyway. It’s not a big surprise. Mail has always been slow around here and now, it’s even slower. Fortunately, our polling place is very rarely crowded. This year maybe different, but it’s a very big polling place and a pretty small town, so I think it’ll be okay. Certainly no worse than the grocery store. I always do the whole thing sitting because I’m so wobbly when I walk, I make them nervous. Also, regardless, Massachusetts is a very Democratic state. The vote will matter much more in other states than it does here,

      Liked by 3 people

      • Small towns are small towns. In the (TV) news biz, small towns are good for (1) murders ‘shocking it could happen in our happy, little town’. 2) Great pictorial locals, usually good for the holidays and/or the ‘Currier and Ives’ pics. Everyone knows your name but that’s not such a good thing. 3) Political: You can spot some candidate signs (local office usually), here and there. Some signs dating back 25 years if you have a good memory.
        And, salute at your ONE traffic light in the center of town!

        Like

  2. I start seeing all the problems you Americans are facing to get your votes in AND registered…. and it gives me a cold shiver down the spine. THIS IS TERRIBLE. God help you all, buy a tent, provisions, camping eqipment, sleeping bag and all three days before voting is possible! Good luck to you ALL.

    Like

    • It won’t be anywhere near that bad most places. Here, there’s almost never any waiting for an election. Big polling places, small population. We don’t have the special ballot boxes we should have, but it doesn’t matter as much as it would in a bigger city. What’s really bad is having a president willing to interfere with an election result. THAT is really bad.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. In theory everything works just fine, in reality it doesn’t.
    Leslie

    Like

    • The planning for this started much too late. As much as I’d like to blame Trump, local pols are as much to blame for not getting the special boxes in place or starting to send out ballots leaving extra time. They seem to forget that not everyone lives in a big city. Most of the state doesn’t live in or around Boston and it take time for mail to move. At least twice as much time as it does in the city … and they would KNOW this if they spent any time paying attention to us — which they don’t.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s too early to vote in California — information booklets should start to come out in mid September, and I believe they are sending out ballots to all registered voters beginning 10/1. It all goes well, we can send the ballots back any time until 11/3, or drop them off in special drop boxes throughout the county, or drop them off at the polling places. I’m concerned about the drop boxes, which are located in such places as the front lawn of a fire station (how secure is that?), but there are some in more secure places. In the past, the mail has been reliable, and it has been the easiest way to vote.

    Like

    • We only have two post offices in Uxbridge — which while a small population is a big physical area. As far as I can tell, there are NO drop boxes for ballots. Maybe they are thinking about putting some in, but as of right now, none exist. They waited much too late to start dealing with this.

      Like

  5. I was so excited when I registered to vote online through our DMV. The site said the information would be transmitted to the Board of Elections and I would get a package in the mail. So far, I have seen nothing, and the Board of Elections website says I don’t exist when I search my name. (No, you can’t register online directly with the Board of Elections, go figure). By the time I get anything, it will probably be too late to vote by mail or drop-box; I can only hope I get officially registered in time to actually go to the voting booth in November. I will brave COVID to do that, if I have to. Playing footloose with the US mail is not going to keep me from voting, assuming I do, in fact, get registered.

    Like

    • This is the “small town” effect all over again. I know where you live isn’t such a small town. Been there are few times, but it “acts” like a small town. That same “Oh, we’ll get around to it one of these days” attitude. When I first read about how this was supposed to work, I said then it wouldn’t work here. We have two post offices — a newer big one not far from us and a tiny old one in the middle of town (with no place to park). We have ONE polling place for the town and City Hall has been closed since March. I don’t know what, if anything has been done because no one has updated the town’s information since March.

      I knew it wouldn’t work here. In Massachusetts, if you don’t live in or around Boston, you simply don’t exist. Amherst, when schools are in session, exists because the town goes from 20,000 population to 200,000 population when students arrive (there are nine big schools in that small town!) … but there’s no school. All our other “bigger” towns aren’t much bigger and they are rural and many are very poor. There’s no one hired to take care of this kind of thing.

      Meanwhile, Boston is wealthy as are its suburbs, so they get everything and we get very little. It’s not so unusual. Small towns tend to get the short end of the stick,. In New York, it’s NY city, then Albany because it’s the capital, and the rest of the state be damned. I grew up in New York, after all.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. So I carried my ballot down to our town hall (I could have mailed it, but…) There was a drop box for water bill payments, etc,but it said, “No Ballots.” I saw a sign that said “Ballot Box in front of Town Clerk’s Window” and pointed to the door. I assumed the customer window inside. The door was locked. I backed up and laughed. Next to the door is a large window. In the window sill was the ballot box. I guess they wanted it where it could be seen from inside. Yeah, the money can be out of sight – who wants money? The voting, though, had to be visible….

    Like

    • it sounds like home. If we got a ballot box, I’m sure it would be in the front area of the post office which is locked most of the time. They COULD put on in front of town hall. That’s right in the middle of town, or next door in our brand new fancy schmancy fire house … or in front of the courthouse (also closed). Or EVEN in front of the ballot location (the Junior High School) OR better yet, right in front of Hannaford. They already have our ONLY mailbox there anyway. Just put one right next to it. Plenty of parking and you really can’t miss it. It’s our only mini-mall, featuring a bank AND and Verizon store AND the grocery!

      I mean, all they have to do it have an old mailbox and spray paint it white, right? You never know. They may get around to putting one up somewhere. We never intended to vote by mail. I knew it was going to be a mess. This is a town without a mayor or even an effective board of selectmen (or is it now selectpeople?). If you ain’t Boston, you ain’t here.

      Liked by 1 person

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