With roughly 5,000 of Bedford’s 10,536 registered voters requesting vote-by-mail ballots for the November 3 election, Town Clerk Bridget Rodrique is clearly heading into her office’s busiest season.
In a recent interview, Rodrigue seemed unfazed, noting that she loves being busy; has an experienced and supportive staff; and has a well-developed plan in place. In addition, the Town Clerk’s office has been reconfigured for efficiency and security to support preparing and mailing ballots, then storing them safely until they are counted on Election Day.
Bedford’s ballots were expected to be received by October 9, but they arrived last Friday, and a complex process is underway.
- October 2 ~ Ballots arrived in Bedford
- October 17 ~ Early voting begins at 2 pm – Click this link for early in-person voting hours
- October 24 ~ The final day to register to vote
- October 25 ~ The day on which early opening of ballots may start
- October 28 at 5 pm ~ Deadline for requesting a mail-in ballot
- October 30 ~ Early voting ends at 1 pm
- November 3 ~ Election Day. Polls are open at JGMS, 99 McMahon Road ~ 7 am to 8 pm
New Voter Registration and Voter Updates
Heightened interest in the upcoming election has prompted a surge in new voter registrations along with adjustments to be sure that existing registrations are accurate. Pre-registrations for first-time voters turning 18 on or before November 3 are stored in a queue that pings the Town Clerk on each birthday so the Clerk can add them to the voter rolls.
When the Ballots Arrive from the Commonwealth
Applications for mail-in-ballots are stored in alphabetic order by precinct, ready to be matched with corresponding mailed ballots.
Once the ballots arrive in Bedford, a team from the Clerk’s office will create an address label and barcode labels for the inner and outer envelopes for each applicant.
As the stuffed envelopes are mailed, each is scanned; barcode will track which ballots were mailed on a particular day. Voters can track their ballots at https://www.sec.state.ma.us/wheredoivotema/track/trackmyballot.aspx
While mail-in ballots can be requested until October 28, the postal service suggests allowing six days for return delivery. Rodrigue suggests that late requests be hand-delivered to Bedford Town Hall to assure receipt in time to be counted.
When Mail-in Ballots are Returned
Voters are strongly encouraged to return their ballots as quickly as possible to allow sufficient time for processing before Election Day.
Ballots will be retrieved from the Town Hall drop box each day, or delivered to the Town Clerk’s office by the US Postal Service. The Town has implemented a procedure for secure handling of all ballots, whether received through the dropbox or the mail.
Once a ballot is returned, its inner and outer envelopes are stamped to show the arrival date, and each is scanned into the computer marking it received. Outer envelopes are stored by precinct for against possible future need, then inner envelopes are sorted by precinct and stored alphabetically in secure spaces.
Early In-Person Voting and Advance Opening
Voters may take advantage of two weeks of early in-person voting in the Reed Room at Town Hall from October 17 to October 30.
Mail in-ballots may be opened beginning on October 25. After names are read and check off the list, the ballots are removed from the envelope and placed in a bin. This is done one precinct at a time. Once all envelopes have been opened, ballots are placed in a sealed envelope with the date and number of ballots. These are then locked up until election day when they will be transported for processing at the polls.
Any individual is welcome to observe this process.
Additional election officials will open and organize the mail-in ballots received each day.
On Election Day
Mail-in ballots may not be counted until November 3 and will be tabulated while the polls are open using a separate set of voting machines, one for each precinct.
A Final Word from the Town Clerk
Rodrigue would like to remind voters that they are strongly encouraged to return their ballots as quickly as possible to allow sufficient time for preparing their votes to be counted on November 3.