Lowell Election Commission Meeting

The Lowell Election Commission met in the Mayor’s Reception Room on Thursday, November 22, 2013. The first item on the agenda was a debrief on the November 5 election. The only reported glitch involved one of the 20 handicap voting machines. While it had been unboxed, it was not started and was therefore inoperable when it came time to use it. Although it didn’t cause a problem, procedures for custody and transportation of data cards, keys to the voting machines, and the ballots after the polls close on election night have to be standardized. Also, the commission hopes to continue accumulating “Vote Here” signs from year to year.

Next item of discussion was provisional ballots. Provisional ballots are cast by people who show up at a polling place, whose names do not appear on the voter list, but who insist that they should. They are allowed to vote but their ballots are segregated in a way that preserves their anonymity but also captures information about the purported voter. After the election, the election office staff researches these on a case by case basis and determines whether the individual ballots should or should not be counted. There were 36 provisional ballots cast this year. Of them, 19 were counted. The inclusion of the votes on these ballots slightly changed the final vote from the election night unofficial total with the only positional change being on the school committee where Dave Conway moved into second place ahead of Steve Gendron by a single vote. (Earlier today I did a blog post showing the official and unofficial numbers).

The issue of polling locations was next on the agenda. The Commission decided that a comprehensive analysis of all the possibilities should be undertaken and that a public hearing should be held in conjunction with it so that members of the public have the opportunity to share their ideas. The date for this will be set sometime in the future.

Absentee ballots and nursing homes seem to be an area ripe for further inquiry. Statistics from prior elections show wide discrepancies in the number of votes cast at various nursing homes. It seems that the commission will both investigate past practices and institute further training for nursing home administrators and staff.

The commission cancelled its December 26, 2013 meeting due to the proximity of the Christmas holiday and will meet next in January.

Although it was not discussed at the Election Commission meeting, I understand that there is a bill now pending in the state legislature known as House Bill 3772. It provides among many other things a two-week long period of early voting in years in which there is a presidential election. Here’s the relevant language of the bill:

Section 25B. (a) The local election officers and registrars of every city or town shall provide for a period of early voting for a qualified voter, as defined in section 1 of chapter 51, in order to cast a ballot during any election involving a presidential primary or presidential election.

(b) The voting period for early voting shall begin on the eleventh business day before the primary or election and continue through the second business day before the primary or election during the regular or normal business hours of the city or town clerk; provided, however, that if the beginning of such period falls on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday the early voting period shall begin on the first business day prior thereto. A city or town may, in addition to providing for early voting during regular or normal business hours and at the discretion of the registrars for such city or town, provide for additional early voting hours beyond such regular or normal hours, including weekend hours.