City Announces Polling Location Changes and Safety Measures Ahead of Sept. 1 Primary

With the September 1 primary right around the corner, the City of Boston has announced changes to some polling locations, especially ones that were located in senior housing buildings, to help keep residents safe during the pandemic. The City has also provided guidelines and other information for voters ahead of the election.

On the ballot for the primary are the races for Senator in Congress, Representative in Congress, Governor’s Council, State Senate, State Representative, and Register of Probate.

The City has announced that polling locations will be open from 7:00am to 8:00pm, and there will be various health and safety measures taken to keep poll workers and voters safe.

“All poll workers will receive face shields, face masks, gloves, disinfectant wipes, disinfectant spray and hand sanitizer,” the City said in a recent release. “Cleaning will take place at each site every two to three hours. Voters waiting in line will be instructed to stand six feet away from others and wear a face covering.”

Eneida D. Tavares, Chair of the Board of Election Commissioners, said in a statement to the Sun that “there are 20 precincts that have been changed because of construction on some sites or some facilities having COVID-19 concerns due to housing an older population of individuals. The City of Boston mailed every single registered voter affected by this change as well as posted the updates of the change on the website. We will continue to reach out to the residents of those precincts that changes have been made.”

At his August 18 press conference, Mayor Walsh reminded residents that the voter registration deadline for the primary is August 22. Registration can be completed in person at the Election Department at City Hall, by mail, online, or at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, according to the City.

“This year, we’re certainly facing challenges to the election process,” he said, citing “attacks from the White House.”

He said he is “committed to making sure Bostonians can vote safely,” by putting safety measures in place, and also working to make voting by mail easy and accessible for everyone.

“All registered voters have received a vote-by-mail application in their mail boxes during the week of July 20, 2020,” the City said. “To receive a ballot, voters must first complete, sign and return the prepaid postcard application to the Election Department by August 26, 2020 for the State Primary.”

The vote-by-mail application can also be used to request a ballot for the November 3 election, and ballots can be requested in Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese.

Walsh also announced a Voting Access Point at City Hall, which is a ballot box available in the third floor lobby Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm. No appointment is needed to drop off ballots, though all people entering City Hall will be screened for COVID symptoms upon entry, he said.

Ballots can be tracked on the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ website, and can be retuned using the prepaid envelope, by dropping it off at an early voting site, or using the box at City Hall, the City said.

Walsh also reminded residents to be sure to sign their names on the outside of the envelope for mail in ballots.

Additionally, early voting will be available from Saturday, August 22 through Friday, August 28. Registered voters are welcome to use any early voting location; a complete list of sites can be found on the City’s website. The main location will be City Hall, and others include the McKim Building at the Copley Square Library from 11:00am to 7:00pm on August 22.

“Absentee voting in person is available until August 31, 2020 at 12:00 p.m. at the Elections Department in City Hall,” according to City officials. 

“To qualify to vote absentee, registered voters must be absent from the City on Election Day, must have a religious belief which prevents them from going inside of a polling location, or have a physical disability which prevents them from going to a polling location,” the City said. “The application to request an absentee ballot can be completed by mail or in person at the Election Department in City Hall.”

Polling location changes and entrance changes in downtown neighborhoods are as follows, according to a document on the City of Boston website:

“Ward 4, Precincts 6 and 7, which is currently located at the Morville House at 100 Norway Street, and Ward 4, Precincts 5 and 8 which is currently located at Symphony Plaza East and West, Boston, MA 02115 moved to Northeastern university, Matthews Arena, 238 St. Botolph Street, Boston, MA, Voter entrance from rear of building from Gainsborough Street. The reason for this move is that both the Morville House and The Symphony Towers have a senior population and opted out as a host location due to caution of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The Polling Location at Franklin Institute of Boston, Ward 5, Precinct 1, located at 41 Berkeley Street is going to be moved back into their Auditorium from the Breezeway. The Voter Entrance will be from the Berkeley Street side of the building.

The Polling Location at the State House, Ward 5, Precinct 3, located at 24 Beacon Street is going to be moved back into Hearing Room B1 in the Basement from the Great Hall on the Second Floor. The Voter Entrance will be the same on Bowdoin Street through Ashburton Park.”

For a complete list of polling changes and for more information on this year’s election and voting process, visit boston.gov/departments/election.

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