Westfield, Southwick prepared for May 19 special state election

Southwick Town Clerk, Treasurer and Collector Michelle Hill tests a voting machine Feb. 19, 2020. (HOPE E. TREMBLAY/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

Early voting and absentee ballots still an option

WESTFIELD and SOUTHWICK – Residents have until this Friday, May 15, to vote early in the May 19 special state election.

The voters will decide the next 2nd Hampden and Hampshire District State Senator. State Rep. John C. Velis, a Westfield Democrat, and John F. Cain, a Southwick Republican, are seeking your vote.

In Southwick, Town Clerk Michelle Hill said she and her staff were getting ready for a different election experience.

“It’s been more stressful than usual,” Hill said, noting that the election will be at Town Hall from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. “We are mapping it out from the point of view of voters.”

All voters will enter the building from the front entrance only and exit from the rear doors only.

‘We will have signs all over to guide people,” Hill said, noting only three voters per precinct will be allowed at one time.

“The ballot is small so it will move quickly,” Hill said of the line.

Hill said there has been some early voting and absentee ballots, but not as much as she had expected.

“We do have over 200 though, which is a lot for us,” she said, “it’s just not as much as I’d thought.”

Early voters cast their ballots in Westfield in a past election. (AMY PORTER/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

Westfield City Clerk Karen Fanion said that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all voting will take place at Westfield Middle School; there will be no polling places open in other precincts. The Westfield Middle School is  located at 30 West Silver St.

Fanion said the decision to create a single polling place was made for safety, as well as because schools are closed and there is a shortage of trained poll workers.

“A lot of election workers are not willing or able to work during the pandemic,” Fanion said. “It’s irresponsible to put any more election workers than absolutely necessary in harm’s way.”

Voters May 19 are required to abide by social distancing rules, including maintaining 6 feet apart while waiting in line and a one-time use pencil will be provided to every voter to use and keep. Fanion said hand sanitizer, masks, gloves and other precautions will be in place.

Voters should wear masks when possible. Fanion said there was no playbook for this election and predicting turnout is unrealistic.

“There is no historical data to review as to voter turnout during a pandemic,” she said. “It is unprecedented times, there is nothing to look back at — life as we know it is completely different. There is no normalcy.”

Once the Westfield City Council approved changing the polling place, notification was in the newspaper, the City’s webpage, social media, a robo call was made, signage was placed on the city’s digital signs and the Senior Center gave out applications with lunches. Fanion said notice was also in the in Council on Aging newsletter and supporters of Velis and Cain gave out applications.

For those unable to physically vote May 19, there is still time for early and absentee voting.

Friday, May 15 at 5 p.m. is the last day to apply for an Early Ballot and Monday, May 18 at noon is the absentee ballot deadline.

In Southwick, absentee votes can be dropped off in the clerk’s mailbox located on the left side of the entrance to Town Hall. Westfield also has a drop box at the side parking lot entrance.


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