Tewksbury Patch was buzzing last week when it was revealed that nearly 4,000 registered Tewksbury voters had been deemed "inactive" and might not be able to vote in the upcoming Nov. 6 election.
Most of those voters were placed on the "inactive" list because they had failed to return their 2012 Town Census.
There is still time to return the Town Census and get back on the active voter rolls. Those who don't will need to bring "proper identification" to the polls on Nov. 6 to be allowed to vote. This identification must match the information on the town records.
Some readers questioned what would be considered "acceptable identification." Some asked if a photo ID was required. Town Clerk Denise Graffeo has offered the following clarification on the issue:
"Acceptable forms of identification include: a Massachusetts driver’s license or state ID card; a utility bill; a government-issued check; a paycheck or paystub; or any other official document bearing the voter’s name and address. Please not that passports, birth certificates, naturalization papers, and student IDs without addresses are not acceptable forms of identification."
Graffeo added that even if an inactive voter does not have acceptable identification, they are still allowed to vote, although an election Warden is obligated to challenge the voter's ballot, in that case.
Graffeo offered the following explanation as to the steps that take place when a voter's right to vote is challenged:
"Any person may challenge a voter for any legal cause. G. L. c. 54, §§ 85, 85A (2002 ed.); 950 C.M.R. 54.04(23). Such reasons are numerous and include that a person: is not who they say they are; does not live where they say they live; is not registered in the correct district; is not qualified to vote by absentee ballot; was not registered to vote by the close of registration; or, has already cast a ballot. It is not sufficient for the challenger to simply say that a voter is not qualified; the challenger must state the specific reason for challenging the right of a person to vote, and that specific reason must be recorded on the ballot. If a person makes a challenge for an unspecified reason, the election worker should thereafter ask the challenger what specific reason they wish to have recorded. If, after being so questioned by the election official, the challenger gives no specific reason, the voter should be permitted to vote, and should not be considered a challenged voter.
Once the warden, clerk or election officer is informed that a voter’s ballot is being challenged, the election officer must:
- issue the challenged voter’s oath to the challenged voter; (the challenged voter’s oath is as follows: “You do solemnly swear (or affirm) that you are the identical person whom you represent yourself to be, that you are registered in this town and that you have not voted at this election..”); and
- before the ballot is marked, require the challenged person to write his name and current residence on the ballot;
- the warden then adds the name of the challenger to the ballot and the cause of the challenge. G. L. c. 54, § 85 (2002 ed.).
- The ballot is then cast and counted like all others."
So, in short, someone on the inactive list will be allowed to vote, even if they do not have acceptable ID. They just have to go through the process listed above. This process is time consuming and can cause a backup in the voting process for the other voters waiting in line, especially in an election when voter turnout is expected to be exceptionally high, said Graffeo.
So, to keep the lines moving and get voters in and out as quickly as possible, Graffeo recommends anyone who has not returned their 2012 Town Census should do so and/or to bring valid identification with you to the polling place.
The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 6 election is Wednesday, Oct. 17. Citizens not registered to vote in Tewksbury, and who will be 18 years or older on or before Nov. 6 can register by mail or in person at the Town Clerk’s Office. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.. Office hours will be extended until 8 p.m. for voter registration on Oct. 17. Mail-In Voter Registration forms are available to download at the Town of Tewksbury’s website: http://www.tewksbury.net/Pages/TewksburyMA_Clerk/voterreg, and need to be postmarked no later than Oct. 17.