Want to cast your ballot before Nov. 8? Here's how to do it ...
Berkshire voters anxious to pick a new president, new state senator and decide four statewide ballot questions can cast their ballots starting next week.
The first-ever early voting process in Massachusetts gets under way Oct. 24 and runs through Nov. 4, allowing registered voters to do their civic duty well before Election Day, Nov. 8. The hours and locations vary for each municipality, but can be found online.
Local city and town clerks also urging the electorate to go to their community's website, if applicable, or call local election officials during regular business hours.
Wednesday is the registration deadline for those eligible to vote.
"The more up to date we can get the voting records, the less confusion there will be for early voting and on election day," said Pittsfield City Clerk Jody Phillips.
Phillips, like most area clerks, are conducting early voting during regular business hours, Monday through Friday with special Saturday hours on Oct. 29.
The early voting legislation adopted in 2014 includes cities and towns taking ballots on the weekend of the 12-day period.
"I am going to be open [that Saturday] from [9 a.m. to noon] and I find a lot of people who need absentee ballots are going to come in that day and early vote instead," said Otis Town Clerk Lyn Minery.
Absentee ballots are still an option, primarily for those temporarily living away from their hometown such as military personnel or college students.
"I've had a lot of requests for absentee ballots ... at least over 300," said Williamstown Town Clerk Mary Courtney Kennedy.
Aside from the presidential race, voters in the 52-community 1st State Senate district must decide between Democrat Adam Hinds and Republican Christine Canning to succeed outgoing state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing.
In Pittsfield, all but one precinct have a battle for 3rd Berkshire District representative between incumbent Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Pittsfield Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell. Pittsfield also has its own ballot question on whether to accept the state's Community Preservation Act, raising additional funds through a real estate property tax surcharge, the money to help pay for affordable housing, open space/parks projects and historic preservation.
The four statewide referendums ask voters if they want to expand slot machine gaming, lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the commonwealth, restrict confinement of farm animals and legalize marijuana for recreational use.
With a highly charged and divisive race for the White House between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton, many Williamstown voters are telling Kennedy they've had enough and want to vote now.
"That's been a very common statement," the town clerk said. "People are saying, 'I want it done and over with.'"
However, the early voting ballots — just like absentee ballots — won't be counted until Nov. 8.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.
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