Photo: Tom Dolan of Clifton Street casts the first early election ballot in Belmont.
Just before 8 a.m., Monday, Oct. 24, Greg Poulos and his daughter, Linnea, entered Belmont Town Hall on a mission: To vote.
The Poulos’, who live on Oak Avenue, joined 386 of their fellow residents Monday who took advantage of the new state law allowing for early voting for the first time in Massachusetts, according to Belmont’s Town Clerk Ellen Cushman who spoke before the Belmont Board of Selectmen Monday evening.
The Commonwealth now joins more than half of the states in the US who allow voters the chance to cast ballots ahead of election day, said Cushman, who said the Secretary of State’s office predicts about 15 percent of the electorate are expected to take advantage of the changes to voting early. In Belmont, that would be between 2,700 to 3,000 voters.
For residents, the main reason for voting early was expediency.
“I want my vote to count early,” said Greg. “I didn’t want to deal with lines, and I like the convenience of it.”
For Linnea, a student at UMass Amherst, she’ll be in western Massachusetts in 15 days. Usually, she would have picked up an absentee ballot from the Town Clerks office, “but this makes it much easier [to vote].”
“I need to get this over with. I need this to be done,” said Clifton Street’s Tom Dolan, who joined the Poulos’ and School Committee member Andrea Prestwich as the voting early birds.
As eight o’clock arrived, the group was ushered by a gaggle of poll workers through a three-step process that sent them on a tour of various room on the first floor of Town Hall: picking up a ballot, then being verified as a registered voter and finally casting their votes in a specialty constructed ballot box.
“We always like to throw the party and have people come,” said Cushman, excited to see a steady stream of residents coming to vote.
Cushman said her office has been working to create a comprehensive plan since the law was passed in 2014. Her office has hired approximately 115 poll workers to speed the process.
Cushman said Belmont has extended hours on most weekdays and on Saturday. The town has also set aside parking in the Town Hall lot for early voters, and the building will be staffed by poll workers to make the process as conflict-free as possible.
Belmont is one of 34 communities award with a gold medal by the Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition for going far beyond the minimum requirements in terms of hours and availability.
The first voter to finish the process was Dolan who slipped his ballot in the box – after it was checked for a second time to see that it was empty.
“Seamless, every easy,” Dolan said of the process. “Probably do this again next time.”