State may reimburse Island towns for voting

Auditor says towns owed for early voting.

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The state auditor says towns should be reimbursed for the cost of early voting. - File photo

Cities and towns in the state of Massachusetts may be receiving reimbursement from the State House due to mandatory early voting periods in 2016, according to the State House News Service.

During the 2016 general election, early voting periods were held for the first time in Massachusetts under the 2014 law requiring early voting periods.

Last February, auditor Suzanne Bump found the law levied an unfunded mandate on cities and towns. She determined the total unfunded early voting costs to be just under $1.1 million. Ms. Bump arrived at this figure by sending out surveys to all 351 municipal clerks. The survey asked questions about specific costs incurred while complying with the law.

“[Ms. Bump’s office] found additional expenses, such as overtime for regular employees or the cost of additional election workers to support early voting, to be an unfunded mandate, thus requiring reimbursement from the commonwealth,” the news service reported.

Each town clerk on the Island filled out two surveys in 2017, detailing extra costs accrued through early voting.

Ben Tafoya, director of the Division of Local Mandates, helped compile the amounts each town is owed and passed the numbers on to state legislators. Mr. Tafoya’s office collects data on how much towns are expected to spend before an election, verifies the amount, then notifies the state. “Now it’s up to the legislature to take action to fund that amount,” he said.

Tara Whiting, town clerk of West Tisbury, filled out the survey even though it wasn’t applicable to the town. “I didn’t charge anything,” she said. “[There was] no hiring of extra staff. It was all done with current staff.”

Ms. Whiting didn’t see a need to hire extra staff to cover the early voting during the 2016 general election. For the 2020 general election, she will consider hiring more people to help with early voting to make it easier for people.

Ms. Whiting was also pleased with early voting. “It was very well received,” she said.

Hillary Conklin, town clerk of Vineyard Haven, filled out the state survey as well, with a reimbursement total of $844. She said early voting was a challenge to both voters and town staff.

“If I had a choice, I think it needs to be looked at a little more,” she said. “Perhaps a one-week period, not a two-week period. I would need a better facility to manage it.”

Ms. Conklin found limited parking and small voting space to be challenging factors.

Island town clerks completed the surveys and submitted them, but don’t know when to expect the reimbursement. Wanda Williams, town clerk of Edgartown, and Laura Johnston, town clerk of Oak Bluffs, expressed uncertainty as to when they would receive any reimbursement. Neither clerk could remember how much they spent on early voting. Carolyn Feltz, town clerk of Aquinnah, could not be reached for comment.

Ms. Bump also requested a change in legislative language, requiring the auditor’s office to determine mandated early voting costs for each municipality in September. The auditors would provide this information to the secretary of state, who could include the costs in in the budget request for the upcoming fiscal year.

“Early voting is an important addition to our democratic processes, and funding the expenses incurred by our municipalities will make it that much stronger,” Bump wrote in a letter, according to the news service.

18 COMMENTS

  1. Creating more opportunity to vote is a no brainier. Early voting widens our Democracy and makes it more inclusive. Let’s keep it!

    • That is ludicrous. How about voting by mail? That’s what our soldiers do and many other do as well. BTW the day we vote can’t be undermined, it’s simply the last day on the calendar for getting your vote in. You want to talk about undermining the process? How about voter ID laws and curtailing of polling places?? Fake investigations into voter fraud that turn up nothing and waste tax payer dollars. Really though anyone who really cares about the principals of Democracy would want to expand the rights of citizens to vote. You sir, are showing your true colors and they certainly aren’t red, white and blue.

        • Weak deflection. Now explain why “early voting undermines the very concept of Election Day.” Use as justification a single mother, reason she hasn’t a husband not given, who requires more than one job to support her children and will lose one of the jobs if she takes time off to vote.

        • It’s not pathetic it’s real. There is only one group of people trying to diminish voting rights and that group of people is Republicans. Democrats on the other hand are actively working to expand voting rights. This trend is well documented.

          If you don’t like receiving criticism for your actions and words maybe you should stop visiting online forums such as these or maybe, just maybe, have something thoughtful and insightful to share about the topic.

        • Hanley you seem as thin skinned as your president.
          vanadium is absolutely correct that there are some people who wish to undermine the system and make it harder for certain segments of our electorate to vote. They are republicans and they are targeting minority and poorer populations. That is not a slur– that is a fact– quit trying to deny it
          And since someone else brought it up– how proud are you that your president made an absolute fool out of himself by spending our hard earned money investigating some psychotic delusion that he won the popular vote.
          How far does he have to go before you realize that he is exactly what he calls poorer countries ?

      • Election Day is the culmination of the election campaign. Early voting allows the campaign to continue even after some votes have been cast. If the results of early voting become known, later voters can be influenced to change their votes. Not good. Decisions should be made on issues, not trends. Absentee voting, of course, is not the same thing, and is primarily intended for military personnel who are on duty and cannot return to vote. Early voting has become a convenience for the lazy or those less motivated to make voting a priority. It is an unnecessary burden and expense on local officials and budgets.

        • Yea…you said “if the results become known”. Yea that tinfoil hat you’re wearing…it’s not working. Who are you you say how or why a voter should cast their vote? You’re not God. Millions cast their vote against Barrack Obama because they (incorrectly) thought he was a Muslim!! We can’t ban the ignorant or gullible or the obsessed with polls from voting.

          Oh and absentee ballots, not just for military personnel but anyone who might have to be absent, like students off to college or civilian foreign service personnel to name a few. Voting should be convenient for gods sake!!! As convenient as possible for every voter!! Maybe we should make election days national holidays!

          “or those less motivated to make voting a priority”
          Eh? What does that even mean? Voting isn’t a priority for someone unless they can do it on election day? Silliness.

        • Requesting you clarify your statement is not a deflection. On the other hand, you deflected again. You got nuthin’.

        • Extending this logic, people should not express how they’ll likely vote. Therefore, you just disqualified yourself for Election Day 2018.

  2. what happens in early voting is that someone counts the votes and tells everyone that x has 150k votes and Y has 43k votes and the public sees the score and that affects how they vote. simple isnt it> It is not a good idea because it contaminates the voting process.

    • Oh please…..this isn’t true. There is no evidence that early voting contaminates anything.

      If anything, Republicans are desperate to “contaminate” early voting because they know it allows more people to vote. Early voting hours are becoming more popular and in some districts account for more than 30% of the final tallies. It seems Republicans are desperate these days to make it harder for people to vote. SAD! 😉

    • Early voting causes a dramatic increase in participation. This should obviously outweigh any mendacious hand-wringing about affecting vote outcomes. The reason it doesn’t is because the people that make the most use of it happen to be young and poor, and tend not to vote red.

      Let me ask a general question: why isn’t election day a federal holiday?

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