Town encouraging absentee voting for June 15 election

Town encouraging absentee voting for June 15 election

BLACKSTONE – The town of Blackstone is moving forward with plans to hold its annual town election on Monday, June 15, though the day will look a little different than previous years.

According to Town Clerk Tara Sullivan, the town is encouraging residents to vote by early or absentee ballot in order to minimize the number of people at the polls on election day. Both voting methods have a deadline of Friday, June 12 – the last business day before the election – to request a ballot, with applications available on the town website or by contacting the clerk’s office.

As of last Wednesday, Sullivan said she’d received requests for a little more than 100 absentee or early voting ballots, far more than in previous years. Last year, she said, the town received about 22 absentee or early voting ballots out of about 900 total votes.

For those who still wish to vote in person, all three polling locations will be open on election day. Voters will find similar measures to those used at this week’s annual town meeting, including poll workers wearing masks and gloves, plexiglass separations between poll workers and the public and sanitizing of polling stations in between each voter. Polling locations will be open regular hours, and voters will be expected to follow social distancing.

“We’ll just be business as usual, but with masks and gloves and plexiglass,” said Sullivan.

Though some towns have had difficulty finding poll workers during the COVID-19 crisis, Sullivan said that’s not the case in Blackstone. While she’s still accepting additional workers as backups, most of those from previous years, she said, have opted to return.

“We’ve been in touch with them three or four times since the beginning of this and they’re all still willing,” she said.

The town election was originally scheduled for April 6 but was postponed twice due to COVID-19. Sullivan said she does not expect any additional postponements. State law mandates the election must take place by June 30, and the town also coordinates with Millville over its School Committee election.

Despite the safety measures, Sullivan said she still expects a decent turnout for this year’s election. Four candidates – including incumbents Margo Bik and Gerald Rivet and challengers Mary Bulso and Robert Kluchevitz – are running for two seats on the Board of Selectmen. The vote will also determine who fills three seats on the Blackstone-Millville Regional School Committee, though only one candidate, incumbent Erin Vinacco of Millville, is formally seeking a seat.

Blackstone also held its annual town meeting this week on the front steps of BMR High School, though with COVID-19 expected to impact attendance, Sullivan said the Board of Selectmen kept the warrant to the minimal items required to pass this year’s budget. Town officials expect to hold a special town meeting some time in the fall to consider additional items, including proposed changes to the BMR School District’s Regional Agreement.