No vote-by-mail for Tisbury town election

Town officials decide to opt out of the option for the spring election.

Tisbury town clerk Hillary Conklin showed a bundle of vote by mail ballots that were delayed getting to the Island. — Eunki Seonwoo

Updated March 10

Tisbury is opting out of vote-by-mail for the upcoming town election. 

Voting by mail for town elections hasn’t had a lot of demand, according to Tisbury town clerk Hillary Conklin. 

“I come before you before every town election with the same request,” Conklin told the Tisbury Select Board during a Wednesday, March 8, meeting. When board member Abbe Burt asked if Tisbury had never done mail-in voting before, Conklin said, “Not for an annual town election.” However, voting by mail is available for state and national elections. 

Conklin said the demand for mail-in voting was not high in Tisbury. “Even for absentees, we usually have like a third of the people requesting,” she said. “We don’t really seem to have a call for this in our town. Also, for our town elections, we usually have a pretty small turnout.” 

According to Conklin, 2022 saw 552 voters during the annual town election; the 2021 town election saw 1,054 voters, a higher turnout likely because of the Tisbury School project. The 2020 census showed Tisbury had 4,815 residents. “We go between — looking back 12 years — 435 to a max of 1,261,” Conklin said. “We just don’t have the numbers for voter turnout. We just don’t have big numbers in our annual town elections, sadly.” 

“So, wouldn’t we want to broaden [voting options]?” board member John Cahill asked. 

Conklin replied that even when vote-by-mail is available during state elections, most choose to vote in person. “I can’t say that sending a ballot two times through the mail is a successful operation,” she said. “They don’t get to where they’re going always, they don’t get back on time.” 

To illustrate her point, Conklin held up a bundle of six ballots that came through the mail during the special town elections in January. “These took between 13 and 17 days to be returned back to us from places like Providence, Boston, Tampa,” Conklin said, urging people to vote in person. 

Conklin added that she viewed the vote-by-mail delays as a systemic and policy problem with the postal service, although she did say the postal workers were doing their best to deliver the mail. 

The board unanimously approved the request. 

Conklin also shared with The Times on Friday an updated list of candidates for the upcoming town election. 

Among contested races, MacAleer Schilcher and the incumbent Burt will be running for the select board seat. Another seat to keep an eye on is town moderator, where Donald Rose Jr. may be replacing the retiring Debra Medders if he runs uncontested. Tisbury residents interested in running for a town position this year have until March 21 to pull nomination papers. 

In other news, the board unanimously approved moving forward with Fidelity Capital Markets to issue the $26 million bond to supplement the Tisbury School project. The net interest cost, or interest rate, is 4.06 percent. 

Meanwhile, Vineyard Wind is mobilizing its construction team to get to work on the 69 Beach Road property, which it acquired in February.


  1. Wow
    Not allowing voters to have alternative options to vote.
    Russia doesn’t want the residents to actually vote either 🤔

      • We learned in 2020 that alternative options led to more people voting.
        I think the more people who vote the better.

      • Republicans had equal access to mail in voting. Not liberals fault they listened to their leader and voted on election day.

      • We learned that long long ago. The right has understood the only way they can win is by suppressing the vote. Paul Wyrick made a speech about it 50 years ago.

  2. Tisbury has low voter turnout, and a handful of ballots weren’t delivered in a timely manner. So instead of continuing to promote Vote By Mail as an option, they’re just going to opt out. Explain to me like Im 5, how that will help increase voter turnout?? This is inexcusably lazy. In small towns where a single vote can swing an election or a ballot question, it’s an absurd decision. Im thankful that Edgartown will still have Vote by Mail for our local elections.

  3. Would Tisbury town residents and voters be safer with Hillary Conklin to retire from her job as she has publicly admitted to not wanting to do the job she was hired to do so she wants you to believe that it’s not her fault or that it’s not useful for those who have been using this option to vote.
    Once you let THEM take away your ability to vote you can guarantee that they will be taking away more rights from you.

    I have heard of many excuses but this one takes the prize.

  4. What “there’s no demand for it” misses is the old adage “If you build it, they will come.” Mail-in and no-excuse-necessary early voting went way up during COVID because they were made available and publicized. Now, thanks to the VOTES Act, those options are permanent. Turnout in town elections is pathetic for a variety of reasons, so it really does seem that making it easier to vote is a no-brainer.

  5. For a couple of hundred years voters got off their butts and actually went to the nearest polling place to vote. There was also verifiable absentee voting for those who would be unable to vote on election day. Why then do we now need so called “mail in voting” which has almost no controls and lends itself to the perception of voting fraud? I received at least 3 “ballots” in the mail in the last presidential “election”. Let’s return to our roots as a democracy.

    • I could not agree more Mr. Axel! America has gotten so far removed from the ambitious and proud nation that we once were and unfortunately, the country is plagued with ill informed voters. This is a very sad fact. I, like many others, work for a living and always make it a point to get to the polls on election day because to me there is value in doing so. It matters. Mail in voting only lends itself to fraud one way or the other.

    • For a couple of hundred years Black people could not vote because they would get their butts whipped if they went anywhere near a polling place.
      For a couple of hundred years women could not vote because they would get their butts whipped if they went any where near a polling place.
      We move trillions of dollars around everyday without having to step foot in a bank.
      If we can safely move money around “by mail” we can vote “by “mail”.
      Everyone seems to know someone who knows someone who received three ballots in the mail.
      How many ballots did John Axel receive in the 2020 election?
      From which towns?
      All but one of those Town Clerks must be fired.

      • Let them prove that they received more than one.
        I call bologna.
        Let us vote how we choose and you can do the same for you.
        Stay out of controlling which party wins.
        Anyone with a brain knows that the only way R’s win is by hindering the voters options and by interference by another country, hence the former.

    • So did you try to vote with more than one of those three “ballots” you supposedly received? If so, what happened then? And are you sure those “ballots” were actually ballots and not applications to vote by mail?

    • Proove it. Let’s see that you have 3 mail in vote cards?
      I bet you are around the farm often.

    • John — when you say “Let’s return to our roots as a democracy” do you mean that only white men who own property should be able to vote ?

  6. Your argument is weak Mr. Hess and like comparing apples to oranges. We all keep track of our own financial transactions for the sake of not getting short changed. It would be difficult, or entirely possible, to determine any fraudulent mail in votes at this point in time anyway. I want the American citizens to determine election results and not either parties influence in tampering. I also know more than one person who received duplicate mail in ballots during the last Presidential election. By the way, look who we got stuck with. Better luck next time I hope.

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