Letter to the Editor: Response on Mattapoisett election information
To the Editor:
I am writing in response to the letter to the editor that appeared first in the online edition of Sippican Week on Friday, June 19, 2020.
First, I want to make clear the fact that every effort is made to keep the public informed about all that is going on in Mattapoisett and especially within the Town Hall. Dan White, our webmaster does an excellent job keeping the website up to date. Even during these challenging last few months, he has been here almost every day, despite being a man of a certain age who would be considered at high risk for infection with COVID-19. I am disappointed that the person who wrote the letter managed to find the one place on the website where the old information lingered even though an updated bulletin was on the front page of the website under News and Announcements and also under my Town Clerk page.
In an attempt to keep voters in the loop, a press release was sent to each local paper when the new election date and polling hours were chosen. The local media did a great job keeping the people informed as they published the information several times. The new date was voted on at a public meeting of the Board of Selectmen. It was mentioned at all subsequent Board of Selectmen meetings that were held and streamed live over the last month or so. I attended two of those meetings to discuss the election and town meeting. The correct election information was also posted on the Town’s Facebook page in the days leading up to the election.
As far as the reduced hours, most towns in Massachusetts altered their customary polling hours during this pandemic. Just as most local business had been operating on reduced hours, we decided to shorten the hours to limit the exposure to our poll workers. Most of our election workers are also members of that segment of the population which are most at risk for illness. It was very challenging to recruit enough workers. Keep in mind that we are asking them to not only wear a mask for a several hours but to potentially expose themselves to COVID-19. Knowing that the shorter hours may be hard for some people, the availability of absentee ballots was also included in each news release and on the website.
The posting of the warrant was done in compliance with the law. The warrant was signed by the Board of Selectmen and posted with the correct date and hours on the outdoor bulletin boards at Town Hall and the Public Library, and inside the post office seven days before the election as required. This is the legal requirement regarding notification to the voters about the upcoming town election.
I particularly take offense to the insinuation that we are trying to suppress voters. The turnout for the Annual Town Election was 1,137. 337 voters requested absentee ballots in advance of the election and 800 voters cast their ballots on election day. This represents approximately 22% of our registered voters This was a very good turnout especially during a pandemic. The fact that most of the absentee ballot applications came in after the original election date speaks to the fact that most people knew about the postponed date.
I would like to thank my office staff and poll workers for doing their very best under less than ideal circumstances. I am very grateful for their dedication and support. I extend my thanks the Highway Department crew for helping as usual with the setup and take down of the equipment at Old Hammondtown School and the police officers who helped keep traffic flowing inside and outside the polls. Many thanks to the voters of Mattapoisett who came in person to vote and were very patient while waiting as we constantly sanitized booths. I would also like to express my gratitude to Michael Lorenco, our Town Administrator for showing up towards the end of the night to help with the closing of the polls. It was a nice surprise. His support and guidance throughout this pandemic have been valuable.
Lastly, I am grateful to have been re-elected to another 3-year term as the Town Clerk. I take the confidence placed in me by the voters of this town very seriously. I show up every day and strive to do the very best job that I am capable of.
Catherine L. Heuberger, CMC, CMMC
Mattapoisett Town Clerk