High early turnout as election nears

Oct 28, 2020

The election might be just a week away, but more than one third of registered Dartmouth voters have cast their ballots, according to data published by the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office. 

As of Oct. 27, 4,395 residents have cast their votes at Town Hall since early voting began — just 471 less than the entirety of in-person early votes during the 2016 presidential election.

Interim Town Clerk Sarah Arruda told the Select Board at an Oct. 19 meeting that so far, voters have been “very excited and well behaved.” 

Arruda said officials had sent out around 8,600 mail-in ballots, and that many staffers came in early — including at 6 a.m. on the first day — to help get ballots out to voters.

“We have had just so much help from the community,” she said. “Everybody has been so helpful and cooperative — it’s really heartwarming.”

With the “higher than expected voter turnout,” Town Hall offices will be open by appointment only during early voting, officials noted. Town Hall will also be closed for regular business on Election Day, Nov. 3, and will operate only as a polling location.

Meanwhile, of the 8,600 mail-in ballots sent out earlier this month, 3,946 had returned with ballots still on the way.

To help mitigate precincts from getting overwhelmed with ballots in November, the town set up an advanced processing facility in Town Hall beginning Oct. 16 through Nov. 2.

According to Interim Development Director Cody Haddad, doing so readies ballots for counting on Election Day and will speed up the release of results.

“That will be a big help to the actual polls,” he said. “Typically these early ballots would go to their precincts on election day, but now we can process as many as we can here.”

Haddad added that this is just one of many ways to assure the public that this election is “safe and secure.” 

According to the interim development director, rhetoric surrounding mail-in voting has caused some concern surrounding the security of this election, noting that  “there’s a conspiracy or misconception that if you receive two ballots that you can vote twice.” 

“That is false,” he said. 

While voters can receive up to three ballots in case of mistake, Haddad said, only one of them will be counted.

“If we were to receive another ballot from the same individual, it would become a rejected or spoiled ballot,” he noted.

Early mail-in ballots can be mailed to Town Hall or dropped in the large silver dropbox in the front parking lot at Town Hall any time.

If it is being mailed, Haddad said the ballot must be postmarked no later than Nov. 3. 

In-person early voting will continue at Town Hall through Friday, Oct. 30.