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Select Board votes to shorten poll hours for May Town Election

At Town Clerk Marlene Kenney’s request, the Select Board voted this week to reduce the hours of the May 18 Town Election. Rather than opening the polls at 7 a.m., the election will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. in the Bromfield cafeteria.

As the Town Election is only weeks away, voters must consider when and how they will vote. This is especially the case because the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing and not everyone has been vaccinated. Holding election hours at a time when classes are not in session and the schools are less crowded will make social distancing easier.

Kenney said that the shorter hours would “reduce the negative impact of election officials having contact with the students, teachers, and staff.” These specific hours were chosen to account for the Bromfield School day. Kenney said that Massachusetts election law requires polls to be open for four hours for a town election. Unlike the 2020 Town Election, students at Bromfield will most likely attend classes. The change would allow time for Bromfield students to be dismissed for the day.

Meg Bagdonas, co-leader of the League of Women Voters of Harvard, said the change in hours was “perfectly understandable in light of the continued state of emergency in the Commonwealth.” She also said that Harvard has had, historically, one of the highest voter turnout rates in the state. Bagdonas stated that “with so many ways to cast a ballot, we anticipate our voter turnout will remain steady.”

According to the Harvard town website, voting by mail for local elections has been extended through June 30. All registered voters may vote by mail in the May 18 Annual Town Election; the deadline to register is Friday, April 23.

People can register to vote at the state election website or at the town clerk’s office (by appointment only). The office is open between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

According to the town’s website, mail-in and absentee ballots for the Town Election must be requested in writing by Wednesday, May 12, at 5 p.m. Voters can either fill out an absentee ballot application or submit a written and signed request. Ballots can be returned by mail or deposited in the Town Hall dropbox. Kenney said information on voting in person at the polls on Election Day will be updated on, or shortly after, Wednesday, April 7.

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