PROVINCETOWN — While the U.S. Postal Service is being hobbled by national political forces that aim to privatize it and perhaps sabotage the upcoming federal elections during a pandemic, there’s a state primary that’s happening in less than two weeks.
The Massachusetts primary election for state and county offices is officially set for Tuesday, Sept. 1. Fortunately, there are many ways to vote between now and then, and most of them aren’t vulnerable to the president’s manipulations.
In response to the coronavirus crisis, Massachusetts expanded the options for voting in several ways. One was to create a new, weeklong period to vote early in person — the idea being that the extra time to vote would thin the crowds on Sept. 1 and Election Day in November.
From this Saturday, Aug. 22, to Friday, Aug. 28, there will be early voting at all four town halls on the Outer Cape. The times for early voting in each town are different, but they are all posted in the box on this page and at MassEarlyVote.com.
Even if you requested or received a mail-in ballot, you can ignore it and vote early in person instead. By doing so, you won’t have to wonder if the U.S. Postal Service was able to deliver your ballot in time — you’ll put it into the ballot box yourself.
Another option, if you signed up for a mail-in ballot, is to fill it out and walk it down to your town hall anytime between now and Sept. 1. Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet, and Eastham all have drop-box voting, and each town hall has a box. Your ballot merely has to be put in the box before 8 p.m. on Sept. 1 to be counted. This avoids the possibility of postal delays canceling your vote.
If, instead, you put your ballot into a regular mailbox, it will need to be received by your town clerk’s office by 8 p.m. on Sept. 1 to be counted. According to Wellfleet’s voter information guide, postal delivery times can range from 3 to 11 days — and that was before there was any deliberate interference with the system. If you’ve already mailed your ballot, however, and you want to verify that it has been received, you can use another state website, TrackMyBallotMA.com.
Vote by Mail
It’s technically not too late to request a mail-in ballot — the official deadline is Aug. 26. Vote.org can help you submit the correct forms. The problem is that there’s not much time left before the primary to both receive a ballot in the mail and send that ballot back through the mail.
If you are registered to vote elsewhere in Massachusetts, you can have a mail-in ballot delivered to you on the Cape. Mail-in ballots do not have to be addressed to where you are registered to vote. When it’s completed, you can then mail your ballot to the town of your primary residence.
Alternatively, you may want to consider registering to vote here. The deadline to register is Aug. 22, and if you have a Massachusetts I.D. from the Registry of Motor Vehicles, you can register online at sec.state.ma.us/ovr.
What’s Your Primary Residence?
The Outer Cape has thousands of seasonal residents of every kind. There are people who worked here their whole lives but spend winters in Florida. There are people who live primarily in Boston or New York but spend long seasons here. There are people with second homes here; renters who sign six-month leases here; students who grew up here but spend nine months in Boston or Amherst. There are traveling nurses and active-duty soldiers and everything in between.
So, where, among all the places we find ourselves in a year, can we properly vote?
“The voter registration affidavit asks the question ‘address where you live now,’ ” said Wellfleet Town Clerk Jennifer Congel. “It’s signed under penalty of perjury. That is sufficient for me to enter someone into the voter records.”
“It’s up to the voter to decide where their primary residence is,” said Philip Gaudet, Provincetown’s town clerk. “There can be vastly different circumstances, depending on the person.”
“It is where you reside more than six months of the year,” said Eastham Town Clerk Cindy Nicholson, “where your car is registered, where your taxes are recorded from.”
All three town clerks pointed out that someone who is on the Cape for only a short time can use absentee voting to get a ballot that’s then sent to where they live long-term. “I, personally, have found that people like to be registered where they are most of the time,” said Congel. “So, I have not had very many people register to vote here as just summer residents.”
“In Massachusetts, you may register to vote at whatever address you consider to be your primary address at the time,” said Debra O’Malley, a spokesperson with the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth. “It’s ultimately up to each voter to determine their primary residence, but all registrations are subject to challenge by any other registered voter.”
The instructions for the Mass. voter registration form are to “print the address where you live now,” but, at the bottom of the form, there is an oath. “I hereby swear that I am the person named above, that the above information is true, that I am a citizen of the United States,” it reads, adding, “I consider this residence to be my home.” So apparently, home isn’t just where your heart is — it’s where your vote is, too.
A resource to note: Home Is Where the Vote Is promotes vote-by-mail options nationwide through its website, homeiswherethevoteis.org.
Early Voting at Town Halls: Sat. Aug. 22 through Fri. Aug. 28
Provincetown: Sat.-Sun.: 9 a.m. to noon; Mon.-Thurs.: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Fri.: 9 a.m. to noon
Truro: Sat.: 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 8 p.m.; Sun.: 2 to 4 p.m.; Mon.-Fri.: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Wellfleet: Sat.-Sun.: 10 a.m. to noon; Mon.-Fri.: 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m.
Eastham: Sat.-Sun.: 9 to 11 a.m.; Mon.-Fri.: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.