A Biden supporter stands just outside of the senior center on Ice House Road.
By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
While record numbers of Bay Staters voted in the November 3 election by mail due to COVID-19, scores of voters still headed to the polls on Tuesday to vote in person at a wide variety of locations. But while every ballot had the same options printed on them, every town’s voting locales were a little bit different, whether due to the location itself or the people professing their beliefs outside.
Sherborn didn’t have anyone outside holding signs at around noon. But what they did have were gifts for the kids who got dragged along to stand around while their parents voted. A coloring book called “Be a Good Citizen: Vote!” with patriotic pages to color, word searches, and a prescient page where one could count the tallies to determine who won the “favorite pet” vote, was laid out on tables at the Sherborn Town Hall. There was also a table to donate gift cards, checks, nonperishables and toiletries to feed the hungry - which was coordinated by the student directors of the Sherborn Community Center and the Sherborn Town Clerk.
Town clerk Jackie Morris felt good about how the big day went, noting that it was kind of quiet with so many people having voted early.
“I was pretty pleased with how Election Day went” she explained, “as all the municipalities were allowed to advance-process and cast all the early-vote-by-mail and early-vote-in-person ballots before November 3, if we chose to do so, and the results could not be printed until after the close of polls on Tuesday. We opened and processed approximately 2300 envelopes and ballots early, and the ballots were cast and locked in the vault before Election Day. Due to all the early voting by mail and in person, Tuesday was fairly quiet with only 620 voters coming casting their ballot. We had 719 voters cast their ballot during the early voting period. I hope that if we continue early voting in person for future elections, that the legislature will allow voters to directly deposit their ballots into the tabulator machines, instead of placing their ballot in an envelope.”
While nationwide, ballot counters have taken a bit of a beating, Morris noted that they worked awfully hard, at a time when COVID-19 meant far fewer volunteers were willing to help out.
“COVID-19 certainly added another layer of difficulty in making sure that the 2020 elections went smoothly, especially as many election workers, understandably, chose not to work the elections this year. Fortunately, there were a lot of volunteers that were willing to help and I could not have managed all the processes of the election without them. The majority of the prep work for voting by mail and the general running of the election is done at the municipal level. The state did try to help this year by assembling some part of the ballot packets for us, but the majority of the work is done in the town clerk's office, and it is a very time-consuming manual process getting all the ballot packets together. We are required to track in the state voter registration system the day we receive an application for voting by mail, the day it was mailed and the day we receive it back from the voter - and everything better match up! Almost all the town clerks have been working seven days a week for months getting the September primary and November state election ballots out to the voters as soon as possible, as it's our job to make sure that every accepted ballot gets counted.”
Dover had less going on at the town house, although there were people holding signs outside, including one group who had their dog with them, and had clothed the pooch in a graphic tee shirt emblazoned with a message to vote. Whether the dog wanted to be inside, didn’t want to wear the tee shirt, really wanted to run around the lawn instead, unlike his owners, he didn’t seem too enthusiastic about standing on the corner and waving at cars.
Medfield had only one place to vote: the Senior Center on Ice House Road. With only this one voting location, it wasn’t surprising that the outside of the polls had tons of people holding signs, although it was surprising to see that in an election where presidential politics took center stage, there was a notable amount of support for State Representative candidate Shawn Dooley.
His sign, complete with a smiley face, stuck out among the usual blue-background, name-only ones. Considering how few of the candidates for most of the non-presidential elections people actually know, any symbol or slogan you have on your sign that can differentiate yourself is a good idea.
“Yes, Medfield has always had one voting location," noted Assistant Town Clerk Marion Bonoldi. "The state is the one to determine if polling locations need to be added. Due to COVID and the large number of vote by mail or early voting, the number of voters voting at the actual polls on November 3 was manageable, and all safety precautions were followed.”
While other towns have lots of locations, Needham has the most interesting one. Needing more voting locations but seemingly out of suitable public buildings in which to host them, in August, voters in precincts E and H were moved to the Needham Golf Club. This caused a bit of a stir because some town government officials were vehement that voting should be done in a public building, but it was decided that since the only other option was a church, while not ideal, a secular golf club was better than a religious building.
The golf course was still in use, so voters were dodging golfers warming up on the putting green. But the location was very nice, the bathrooms were very clean, and best of all for the younger generations of voters, the balcony overlooking the course was open, which gave a great opportunity for a scenic, at-this-point-perfunctory, “I voted” selfie.
It probably doesn’t matter where you vote, but what likely doesn’t inspire anyone to join your cause is throwing your signs on the ground when you’re done standing there, which is what happened at Westwood's Downey School.
That lack of effort stood in stark contrast to the lone person holding a sign at the Westwood Senior Center, a Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai supporter who was undeterred that the candidate had already lost the Republican primary.
Other than the Senior Center, Westwood conducted its voting in the far more traditional school building locations. At Hanlon School, I ran into a mother and daughter, who let me take their picture to commemorate the historic moment, as it was the daughter’s first time ever voting.
By far, the town with the most people holding signs was Walpole, although the supporters by district varied widely. The Fisher School was strongly pro-Trump, with a large group of men supporting the incumbent (including having an enormous “Trump” sign and a pickup truck with some Trump flags) compared to a very small number of Biden backers.
On the other hand, Blackburn Hall had a large pro-Biden contingency, mainly consisting of women who were sitting in lawn chairs and covered in blankets.
While election day didn’t have quite its usual energy due to so many people having voted by mail instead, on Tuesday, large swaths of Bay Staters, each with their own unique backgrounds, beliefs and ideals headed to the polls to do their civic duty.