As the fall election season fast approaches, the voter registration deadline is a week away for next month's state primary featuring two key races in Berkshire County.
If not already signed up to cast ballots Sept. 8, residents from the Berkshires to Cape Cod have until Aug. 19 to register with their city/town clerk or online at www.RegisterToVoteMA.com, according to Massachusetts and municipal election officials.
Legal U.S./commonwealth residents at least 18 years old on or before the primary can register to vote by next Friday at 5 p.m. which also makes the newest voters eligible for the Nov. 8 general election.
The statewide polling hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for election days.
The primary is being held on a Thursday, rather than the traditional Tuesday, to avoid the day after Labor Day and still meet federal election laws of having at least 45 days between the two election dates so overseas absentee ballots can be sent in a timely manner, according to state election officials.
Locally, the Democratic Party has the only contested races on Sept. 8: one each for Pittsfield state representative and the countywide state senate seat.
3rd Berkshire District Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier squares off against Michael Bloomberg, the winner facing an independent candidate, current Ward 4 Pittsfield Councilor Christopher Connell.
Three people are up for the Democratic nod in the 1st Berkshire District Senate seat: Rinaldo Del Gallo and Adam Hinds of Pittsfield and Andrea Harrington from West Stockbridge. The victor goes head-to-head against Lanesborough Republican Christine Canning in November, the winner succeeding Benjamin Downing who opted against another re-election bid.
Since a primary is party-driven, voters must cast ballots according to their registered party affiliation. Only voters registered "Unenrolled" no party designation, but elgibile to vote can choose which primary ballot they want when they go to the polls. The November election is an open process, thus party designation doesn't matter.
Local election officials caution those who claim independent status as that isn't the same as unenrolled. This was an issue for some Berkshire voters during the Presidential Primary in March who tried to vote either Democrat or Republican.
"We try to emphasize the distinction of the parties, especially the United Independent [Party,]" said Sheffield Town Clerk Felecie Joyce. "We're fortunate in Massachusetts [unenrolled voters] have the option to decide which primary to vote in."
Those wishing to change party affiliation or register as unenrolled, can also do so by next Friday.
As for the newly implemented early voting, that takes affect in November. Absentee ballots now available at city/town halls are the only votes being cast prior to Sept. 8.
"People can get an absentee ballot for three reasons: absence during normal polling hours, physical disability, religious reason," said Pittsfield City Clerk Jody Phillips.
Phillips urged anyone unsure of their voter status should call or stop in to their home city/town hall.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233