In the age of COVID, mail-in ballots offer an opportunity for many who are immunocompromised or in the susceptible age group to vote safely and securely.
But voting by mail is useful for anyone who wishes to take advantage of it, and there are some fundamental steps folks should take to make sure their ballots are filled out completely, and submitted in the proper way.
According to West Tisbury town clerk Tara Whiting-Wells, one fundamental piece that causes ballots to be rejected is not filling out the inner private envelope fully. Whiting-Wells said the inner document must have accurate, up-to-date information, and must include the voter’s name, signature, and physical address.
She said for the primary election, some folks who submitted their mail-in ballot didn’t fill out the return address line.
Whiting-Wells suggested that everyone who plans to vote by mail should read the step-by-step instructions included in the package, and should take their time when filling out their ballot.
She said the inner envelope is the key piece of information for town clerks to accept the ballot after it has been submitted.
Folks have the option of using the regular mail to return their ballots, or they can use the drop boxes out front of the West Tisbury town hall and in the downstairs lobby.
According to Whiting-Wells, the drop box outside of the town hall is covered by Vineyard Transit Authority cameras, so it is a safe and secure place to deliver completed ballots.
“The other thing would be for people to submit their ballots as soon as they can — don’t wait until the last minute. I understand there is a large mailing volume during this time, so when people fill out their ballots, they can either mail them, or get them to the drop box as soon as possible,” Whiting-Wells said.
Currently, the town clerks do not have the ballots to send out, but Whiting-Wells said they will send them out as soon as they receive them, to whatever mailing addresses the townspeople provide in the ballot request postcard.
“Please confirm your mailing address. People are sending back the postcards and are saying, ‘This wasn’t where I wanted [the ballot] mailed,’” Whiting-Wells said.
If West Tisbury voters have questions or concerns about their mail-in ballot, or want to confirm any information, she said, they can send an email to her.
Whiting-Wells said she thinks it’s important for people to vote however they feel comfortable, but encouraged anyone who is interested in voting by mail to do so.
Tisbury town clerk Hillary Conklin concurred with Whiting-Wells’ point that the inner privacy envelopes of all mail-in ballots must be filled out all the way, and noted the importance of using black ink so the scanners can read the writing.
Conklin said Tisbury voters can either mail in their ballots, or deliver them to the town clerk service window during the week from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, or on the weekends from 10 am to noon.
During the early voting period, starting Oct. 17 and ending Oct. 30, Conklin said, Tisbury voters can bring their mail-in ballots to the polling places, but on election day, folks must bring their ballots directly to the town clerk.
She also stressed the importance of voters bringing mail-in ballots to their designated town election office.
Edgartown town clerk Karen Medeiros said town clerks expect to have ballots to send out no later than Oct. 5. “Once we have them, they will be mailed out right away,” Medeiros said.
As far as getting mail-in ballots to the town clerk, Medeiros said Edgartown residents can either submit them by mail, or deliver them to the lockboxes outside the town hall and in the town hall entryway.
Anyone with additional questions about mail-in voting can reach out to their town clerks for information.