Montague Selectboard plans for Sept. 21 special election with reduced polling hours

  • A Sept. 21 special election is planned to fill resigning Montague Selectboard member Michael Nelson’s seat. Staff File Photo/Dan Little

Staff Writer
Published: 6/29/2021 7:06:50 PM

MONTAGUE — The Selectboard charted out plans for a Sept. 21 special election to fill resigning member Michael Nelson’s seat during its meeting Monday, and announced that the town has zero positive COVID-19 cases.

Key among the election plans was a change in polling hours. While having a 12-hour polling window has been the tradition, Town Clerk Debra Bourbeau proposed opening the polls from noon to 7 p.m.

Bourbeau argued that having the availability to vote by mail makes reducing the polling hours feasible, especially due to the seasonal inconvenience of in-person voting for residents.

“School’s in session. It still can be a warm day mid-September. There’s no air conditioning in there,” Bourbeau said. “Even if we do shorten the hours of the election, everybody will have the availability to vote by mail.”

Bourbeau credited her motivation to shorten the polling hours to her consideration for the poll workers.

“It’s a long day for those poll workers when it’s not busy. It’s one thing if it’s a presidential election and it’s constantly moving, but it’s boring,” she said of smaller elections. “Not that democracy shouldn’t take precedence because they’re bored, but it is a long, slow day.

Hesitance to back this change came primarily on the basis of concern over universal accessibility.

“It’s basically less than the length of an individual’s work shift,” Town Administrator Steven Ellis said. “You know, if (residents) work a noon to 8 p.m. shift, they’re not going to be able to be there. Or, if they’re responsible for picking up their kids from middle school softball or something after school on the other side of town, they may not be able to get in there.”

Ultimately, the three Selectboard members voted unanimously in favor of Bourbeau’s proposed polling hours.

Selectboard members were also encouraged by the latest regional COVID-19 information, which shows Montague has zero positive COVID-19 cases. According to Ellis, this marks two straight weeks with zero cases, earning the town a “null” status.

Data from the state Department of Public Health, released on June 23, shows there have been seven active COVID-19 cases in Franklin County in the past two weeks.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or

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