Early voting ballots and envelopes available at Clerk’s office after wrong envelopes were mailed

Apr 28, 2023

Despite the Select Board voting in February to accept mail-in ballots during the May 2 Town Election, early voting ballots only became available at the clerk’s office on Monday, April 24. 

Prior to that date, the Clerk’s office handed out absentee ballots instead, which require the voter to sign a statement confirming, under penalty of perjury, that they meet the qualifications. Those qualifications are not being in town during polling hours, disability, religious beliefs, being an active member of the Armed Forces or family member, or being incarcerated for reasons other than a felony conviction.

In addition, resident Sandy Cormier said the Clerk’s office did not send out the correct early voting envelopes by mail and sent out absentee envelopes instead, which require the same “absent” attestation. 

Retiring Town Clerk Michelle Bissonnette said the incorrect envelopes being mailed out “was purely a mistake.” Bissonnette took responsibility for not double-checking a new staff member’s actions when sending out the envelopes, which look very similar. The Clerk said the office currently has someone delivering the correct envelopes to those who received the wrong one. Only residents who requested an early voting ballot by mail received the wrong envelope, while those that came in person were given the correct ones. 

Bissonnette argued to the Select Board in January for the town to opt-out of mail-in voting because her office was understaffed, and had many absentee ballots already printed. She assured residents that there is no penalty for saying that they cannot make it to their polling place. 

However, residents had some concerns at the time about lying on the absentee ballot. 

“If I am in town that day, then I would vote if I was able to vote,” resident Diane Kenney said. “I am not going to request an absentee ballot and lie on it in order to mail-in vote.”

Even with the correct ballots now available, Cormier said she still has concerns about the incorrect envelopes being used. 

“Especially when the Republicans are calling fraud [about elections], we don’t need another thing like that to challenge elections,” Cormier said.