Middleboro to discontinue mail-in voting in local elections

Feb 13, 2024

MIDDLEBORO — The Middleboro Select Board unanimously agreed on Monday, Feb. 12 to discontinue voting by mail in local elections, citing a potential cost savings of about $10,000 and limited public response.

The decision would only affect local elections, Town Clerk Pamela Menconi told the board. Voters could still cast ballots by mail for state and federal elections.

Voters currently receive an application to request a mail-in ballot from the town by mail 45 days prior to a state or federal election. They have the option to request a mail-in ballot for either the state or federal election or “all 2024 elections.’’

Menconi said many voters do not realize that local elections are included in the all 2024 election category, even though it is not specifically listed as a choice. In checking that all elections category, voters automatically receive a local ballot as well, even though “a very low percentage of ballots [are] actually being returned,’’ Menconi wrote in a letter to the board.

As of Jan. 31, the Town Clerk’s office received approximately 1,500 postcards requesting mail-in ballots and are receiving an average of 100-200 additional postcards daily, Menconi wrote. The majority of postcards returned have requested to have ballots mailed to them for all 2024 elections.

The Town Clerk estimated the cost of sending out the local ballots at about $10,000, which includes an increase in the quantity of ballots ordered for mailing; additional staffing for the weeks leading up to election day to process the mailing and return of such a large amount of ballots and postage for mailing the ballots.

Absentee voting would still be an option, Menconi said. Absentee ballots must be specifically requested, she said, and must relate to specific categories, such as voters with religious exemptions or who are housebound.

Select board members agreed without much discussion that the change made sense.

Select board member Neil Rosenthal said eliminating the mail-in option “could change results,’’ but “I like to keep it simple.’’

Voters have ample opportunity to vote in person, Finance Committee member Matthew Phillips said. Elections take place on Saturdays, he noted, and polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. “It could not be any easier, any simpler,’’ he said.

Board members urged voters to come out and cast ballots on Election Day. Voting, Rosenthal said, is a “responsibility.’’

Finance Committee Chair William Pike expressed some concern that people might not understand the change and the voting process. Menconi said the town would work on public outreach to educate the public.

The presidential primary is scheduled for March 5, the state primary is scheduled for Sept. 3 and the state and federal election will occur on Nov. 5.