Town Election ’18: Donner, Burgess-Cox Heading To School Board As Few Voters Venture Out To The Polls

Photo: Asst. Town Clerk Meg Piccione reading the results of the Belmont Town Election on April 3.

In a town election that saw one of the lowest turnouts in the past decade, a teacher topped the ballot in the race to run the Belmont’s schools. 

In the only competitive town-wide race, newcomer Tara Donner outpaced incumbent Susan Burgess-Cox, 1,767 to 1,517, to fill the two three year seats on the school committee as fellow newbie Jill Souza Norton just missing out finishing third with 1,349 votes. School Committee Chair Lisa Fiore ran unopposed for a one-year term on the committee.

Read all the unofficial results of the town-wide and Town Meeting races here.

A last-minute write-in candidacy by well-known resident Tomi Olsen was swept aside by the vote for current School Committee member Tom Caputo who ran as the only official candidate for the Board of Selectman, garnering 2,106 votes, or 94 percent of those who cast ballots.

Over on the Town Meeting side of the ballot, some interesting results were noted including two longtime ballot toppers who just barely held onto their seats; both Lydia Ogilby (Precinct 1) and Donald Mercier (Precinct 8) both came in 12th with Mercier taking the last slot by a mere nine votes over Mark Smith.

In the race of town-wide candidates battling it out on the Town Meeting ballot, Burgess-Cox topped Caputo, 214 to 203, to “win” Precinct 2’s top spot while Precinct 1’s Peter Dizikes garnered the most votes of all the precincts with 324. In the closest race, Linda Levin-Scherz defeated Elizabeth Khan by three votes, 125-122, to take the one-year seat in Precinct 2. 

Stopping by a crowded Town Clerk’s Office to pick up the unofficial results, first-time candidate Dovie Yoana King learned she tied for second receiving 164 votes. The newly-elected Precinct 7 member said she was “very excited” to become heading to Town Meeting in a month as her presence will add much-needed diversity in Belmont’s legislative body. With her son by her side, King said she hopes to give a voice to survivors of domestic violence but also represent all people in the precinct which she noted is populated by the most varied groups in Belmont.

A cold, wet miserable afternoon and the lack of competitive races appeared to have kept residents from the polls as participation was an anemic 16.5 percent as 2,816 residents voted at Belmont’s eight precincts. This election’s number is well below the 28 percent seen last year and 22 percent in 2016. The 2015 town election which included a $3.5 million override on the ballot brought out 51 percent.

Belmont isn’t a stranger to unenthusiastic participation on election day; in 2009, only 1,438 voters or 5.89 percent of total registered voters came out. 

Belmont Votes: 2018 Town Election


The annual Belmont Town Election takes place on Tuesday, April 3, 2018.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

And below is information that will make the process of casting your ballot all that much easier.

Whose running for town wide and Town Meeting 

Click here for the Belmont League of Women Voters Guide for candidates and their campaign message.

Polling Places

For voting purposes, Belmont is divided into eight voting precincts, located as follows:

  • Precinct 1 – Belmont Memorial Library, Assembly Room, 336 Concord Ave.
  • Precinct 2 – Belmont Town Hall, Selectmen’s Room, 455 Concord Ave.
  • Precinct 3 – Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.
  • Precinct 4 – Daniel Butler School, Gymnasium, 90 White St.
  • Precinct 5 – Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.
  • Precinct 6 – Belmont Fire Headquarters, 299 Trapelo Rd.
  • Precinct 7 – Burbank School, Gymnasium, 266 School St.
  • Precinct 8 – Winn Brook School, Gymnasium, 97 Waterhouse Rd. (Enter from Cross Street)

Please adhere to the posted parking restrictions and use caution to ensure the safety of pedestrians around the voting precincts.

Are You Registered to Vote in Belmont and Eligible to Vote April 3? 

If you are wondering if you are a registered voter and your voting precinct, go to the Town Clerk’s web page or phone the Town Clerk’s office at 617-993-2600.

Arrive early, consider traffic and limited parking 

Belmont Police will designate some voter parking at each of the polling locations however with a  busy election, parking close to the polling places is often a challenge.

Plan ahead: consider walking, carpooling with a friend or voting “off peak” during the middle of the day. Only voters who arrive at the precinct and are in line for the Voter Check-In before the close of polls at 8 p.m. can be permitted to vote; those who arrive too late will miss out.

Election Day campaigning

The Town Clerk and the Board of Registrars of Voters remind all residents that campaign signs, stickers, buttons or materials may NOT be displayed within 150 feet of each polling place. This prohibition, per Massachusetts General Laws, Ch. 54, §65, even extends to a candidate whose name is on the ballot, when the candidate is not actively voting.  The Town Clerk’s website posts a map displaying the 150-foot radius under Campaigning: Running for Elected Office and Town Meeting.

Election Results – How Do I Find Out the Results?

Election results for each precinct are announced by the Warden of each precinct after the close of the polls. The unofficial town-wide results will be announced at Town Hall and posted on the home page of the Town website as soon as they are available Tuesday evening or phone the  Town Clerk’s office at 617-993-2600 on Wednesday morning. Campaign representatives are welcome to wait at Town Hall for the printed results.

Absentee Voting Available Until Monday, April 2

Photo: Vote at Town Hall until April 2

Residents who wish to take advantage of absentee voting in the annual town-wide election can do so at the Belmont Town Clerk’s office until noon, April 2, the day before the election. 

To vote absentee, all ballot requests must be made in writing and received before noon on April 2. Absentee ballot applications can be used for one election or for an entire calendar year. A new application must be filed for each subsequent calendar year.

Please note that fax and email requests are not acceptable; only original signatures are acceptable.

Click here for more information regarding Absentee and UOCAVA (Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act) Voting.

You Still Have Time To Get On The Town Election Ballot; Deadline is Feb. 13

Photo: Nomination papers

Nomination papers for the Annual Town Election on April 3, (Town Meeting Member and Town-wide offices) are available now at the Town Clerk’s Office, and are due back to the Town Clerk for certification by Tuesday, Feb. 13, at 5 p.m. Fifty certified signatures of registered Belmont voters are required for Town-wide office, 25 certified signatures of Belmont registered voters dwelling in the appropriate precinct are required for Town Meeting. It is always wise to obtain and provide at least 20 percent more signatures than the requirement to meet the certification minimums.

Click here for ballot info.

Getting Your Name on the Ballot

Running for election is simple. Pick up nomination papers in the Town Clerk’s office and have your neighbors and friends who are registered voters sign your papers and submit the signed forms to the Town Clerk by the deadline.

Town-wide Offices

To be considered a candidate for town-wide office, you must be at least 18 years old and a registered voter in Belmont.

There are many Town-wide elected offices that will appear on the annual Town Election ballot.

Signatures of at least 50 registered voters of the Town are required on the nomination papers.

Representative Town Meeting: Representatives from Each of the Eight Voting Precincts

In addition to the 12 Representative Town Meeting Members that are elected for three-year terms from each of our eight voting precincts, there may also be openings for one (1), or two (2) year terms.

There are partial terms in the following precincts:

  • One 2-year term in Precinct 1
  • One 1-year term in Precinct 2
  • Two 2-year terms in Precinct 5

Incumbent Town Meeting Members

Incumbent Town Meeting Members who intend to run for re-election have missed the deadline of Jan. 23 to return the Intention Letter. Missing the return date means having to collect signatures on nomination papers.

New Candidates for Town Meeting Member

To be considered a new candidate for Town Meeting Member, you must be at least 18 years old and a registered voter of the Town of Belmont. If you are currently serving as a Town Meeting Member who was elected at the caucus, not by Town ballot, you will need to submit nomination papers as a new candidate.

Signatures of at least 25 registered voters of your precinct are required on the nomination papers. The Town Clerk must certify these signatures so we always suggest obtaining about 20 percent more just to be safe.

Withdrawing Your Name From the Ballot

If you have taken out nomination papers and the signatures have been certified, but you change your mind, you may remove your name from the ballot by notifying the Town Clerk in writing by Feb. 13.

Be Counted: Belmont Town Census In the Mail This Week

Photo: Belmont census in the mail. 

It’s been delayed by a couple of weeks, but residents can anticipate the annual town census will be in their mailbox any day now, according to Ellen Cushman, Belmont’s town clerk.

And Cushman encourages residents to complete and submit the census as Massachusetts General Laws require an annual listing of residents as of Jan. 1, 2017.

By filling out the annual census, residents provide proof of residence to protect their voting rights, can register children in schools, apply for veteran’s bonus, and subsidized housing and related benefits.

Registering is an important task since most town programs require proof of Belmont residency for enrollment and emergency response personnel will know for whom they are looking in the event of a 911 call.

Failure to respond to the census mailing will result in removal from the active voting list and may result in removal from the voter registration rolls. Those removed from the active voting list will result in residents being prevented from voting until they sign up.

Running for Office/Town Meeting: Belmont’s Nomination Process [VIDEO]

Photo: The steps to get you on the ballot.

Thinking about running for Belmont Town Meeting? Or maybe taking a step up and seeking town-wide office?

What eligible voters need first to understand is the nomination process to place your name on the ballot for the 2017 Town Election which takes place on Tuesday, April 4.

And the person to ask those and other questions is Belmont’s Town Clerk, Ellen Cushman. In this video, Cushman gives interested residents the basics of getting on the ballot.

More information can be found at the Town Clerk’s web page located on the town’s website.

Three Days of Early Voting Remain; It’s Easy as 1,2,3 [VIDEO]

Photo: Remember to get your “I Voted” sticker!

Residents have three days in which to participate in early voting for the Presidential election, according to Ellen Cushman, Belmont’s Town Clerk.

Town Hall will be open on Wednesday, Nov. 2 and Thursday, Nov. 3 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Friday, Nov. 4 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

As of 8 p.m. on Tuesday, 4,057 early voters – or 22.75 percent of all registered voters – have taken the opportunity to cast their ballots before the general election takes places next Tuesday, Nov. 8.

And the voting process is easy and quick as the accompanying video attests.

Belmont Town Clerk Announces Early Presidential Voting Dates, Hours


Photo: Town Clerk Ellen Cushman registering Belmont High School students allowing them to vote in the 2016 Presidential Election. 

Recent changes to the Massachusetts General Laws gives all registered voters the opportunity to cast a ballot for the Presidential and State Election before the Nov. 8 Election Day, according to a statement from Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman. 

The new law permits voters to cast ballots during the designated period of Early Voting from Oct. 24 and Nov. 4. Those times includes Saturday, Oct. 29 and night hours until 8 p.m.

“In Belmont, we are excited to offer this opportunity to our registered voters, an expanded, accessible schedule of hours at one central location, Belmont Town Hall, for this ‘no excuse’ vote-ahead option,”
said Cushman. 

Unlike absentee voting that is available in every election only to those voters who will be absent from Belmont, or have a physical disability preventing the voter from going to the polls or with a religious belief preventing the voter from going to the polls on Election Day, Early Voting is available to anyone.

No advance application is necessary to vote in person; voters can decide the date and time to cast their ballot in person at Town Hall during the Early Voting hours. Once the voter has cast an Early Voting Ballot, that voter may not vote at the polls on Election Day or receive an absentee ballot. 

Only residents who were registered to vote by Oct. 19, are eligible to vote in this year’s Presidential State Election. To find out whether and where you are already registered, and where to vote or to inquire about absentee voting, visit

Visit the Belmont Town Clerk’s pages on the Town of Belmont website to explore elections information.

Early Voting for Belmont Voters will be available ONLY at Town Hall, 455 Concord Ave., and only on the following schedule of dates and hours: 

  • Monday, Oct. 24; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 25; 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 26; 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Thursday, Oct. 27; 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 28; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 29; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 30; No Early Voting Hours
  • Monday, Oct. 31; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 1; 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 2 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Thursday, Nov. 3; 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Friday, Nov. 4; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“Pick the most convenient date and time for you and give Early Voting a try. It’s always advisable to have your ID with you when you go to vote either on election day or for Early Voting,” said Cushman.

“Written, signed absentee applications and Early Voting applications that request us to mail you a ballot are also available, online or at the Town Clerk’s office at Town Hall.  If you have questions or need additional information, email the Town Clerk’s office at or phone us at 617-993-2600,” she said.

“We’re here to help,” said Cushman.


Why I’m Running: Ellen O’Brien Cushman for Town Clerk

Photo: At work with Ellen Cushman.

I am proud to be Belmont ‘s Town Clerk for the last six years and look forward to serving for another three years, following in the footsteps of some extraordinarily dedicated women and men.  April 5 I run unopposed for re-election but I want to provide a quick summary of some of accomplishments and changes in the Town Clerk’s office over the past couple of years to let you know how we’re doing. The two main goals for the Town Clerk’s office are simplifying transactions so we can continue to handle  growing demands  and accessibility of records and: 

Here are some transaction statistics that may startle you. During the calendar year 2015:   

  • 15, 029 people entered the Town Clerk’s office per our electronic door counters.  No, that’s not a typo, it’s 15,029 people who came into the office looking for information, help, documents!
  • The Town Clerk’s staff of four sent and received more than 31,800 emails
  • There is no system to record the number of incoming phone calls but that’s one of the most popular modes of communication so we can only guess at that number.
  • Daily, we issue residency verification for Belmont families to register children in our schools, that’s every single day we’re open, in 2015 totaling  814 children from  521 families.
  • Licensed 2400 pets, more than 20 percent renewed their pet licenses by paying online.
  • Posted 634 separate meetings from 53 separate governmental bodies, all compliant with the Commonwealth’s Open Meeting Law, and received the related minutes. 
  • Our revenues for Town Clerk activities totaled $100,500 in FY15, up 4 percent from FY14, and the average fee we collect is just $20;  so the total number of fee-based  transactions 5611. 
  • Introduced electronic voting at Town Meeting, getting accurate, fast results and high levels of satisfaction.
  • We issued 195 free Yard Sale Permits online using our self-serve software, up from 13 in its inception year 2014.
  • We distribute materials to Town Meeting Members via email and the Town’s website; at this point, all but six of the 294 Town Meeting Members receive  their documents by email, cutting cost and getting documents in the hands of Town Meeting Members sooner.
  • In FY15, we issued 1774 absentee ballots to qualified Belmont voters and processed 7,650 individual family census forms. 
  • Have had 105 fully trained election workers in 2015, and have just recruited and trained an additional 48, ready to deploy in 2016, an exceedingly busy election year. We’ve standardized our training, provided election worker manuals and re-educated our long-term workers.
  • During the school year, we benefited from 300 volunteer hours from Belmont High School students and another 380 hours over the summer of 2015 to help us with filing and organizing.  We love our volunteers and count on them.

Accessibility of Records: 

  • Pet Licensing System: We maintain all records electronically, in real-time and allow online payments for renewals. We make our data system available to the Animal Control Officer and Belmont Police.
  • Business licensing System: For licenses issued by the Board of Selectmen, we created an online licensing system that allows departments to review, share information and approve or deny a license online, cutting significantly the time from application to approval. In fall 2016 we will allow businesses to apply and pay online and the application processing fee will be waived for businesses do so.
  • Town Meeting Votes: The Town Clerk’s office is daily asked for information about votes by Town Meeting on an array of topics, often from decades ago. We have created an electronic index of the Town Meeting votes to show the result and allow us to locate the transcript of the specific Town Meeting article. At this time, the index covers 3,200 votes from 1955 to 2016; we continue to add votes every chance we get with the goal to have ALL votes back to 1859 indexed and available.
  • Public Records Requests: Under the Massachusetts Public Records law, we receive hundreds of these requests each year, some requiring quick responses, some require extensive research. We’ve formalized the process to keep track of the requests and responses with the goal of never missing a deadline. 
  • Archiving: One way to make records more accessible is to know what you have and where it is before you’re asked to produce it. We have created an online data system to help us keep track of all of our archive items.
  • Our project under the Community Preservation Act has allowed us to digitize Belmont’s more than 70,000 vital records of birth, death and marriage to preserve them, index them and allow us to issue images of these records upon demand. In addition, we are preserving the bound books of these original documents to assure they’ll be around for future generations of Belmontians.

I hope you’re happy with the service the Town Clerk’s office provides for Belmont. Feel free to send me your comments, good and bad. That’s how improvement happens. I would appreciate your vote on Tuesday, April 5. 

Ellen O’Brien Cushman, Town Clerk

Scott Road

A Fairy Tale Wedding, From Cinderella’s Castle to Belmont’s Town Hall

Photo: Not only did Town Clerk Ellen Cushman conduct the ceremony, she took photos of the bride and groom.

For Kai Lin and Guang Shen, it felt like their love was fated.

Meeting online just about a year ago, Lin – a widow with an 11-year-old son – and Shen – divorced with an eight-year-old son –discovered their sons have the same name (11-year-old Brian and 8-year-old Bryan) and they shared an enduring love of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park.

Lin, a Belmontian with a doctorate from Penn who works as a director at Watertown’s Enanta Pharmaceuticals, and Shen, a Winchester resident currently obtaining her masters in special education from Lesley, love the theme park “because it’s where everything is magical,” said Lin. 

And it was in Orlando, in front of Cinderella’s Castle, where Lin asked for Shen’s hand in marriage.

And like any good Disney love story, there was complication that needed to be over come by the hero.

“I wanted to propose on Christmas Day but the park was so full, we couldn’t get in. I had to ask her on Dec. 26,” said Lin.


While the engagement was in one of the most public of places, the couple decided the wedding would be a simple affair.

“We decided we wanted to get married as soon as possible so it would be small,” said Lin.

While searching online for a venue, he discovered that Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman had officiated ceremonies on Valentine’s in the past. 

“We thought ‘what a great idea, to be married on Valentine’s Day’,” said Lin, who called Cushman who said despite the lateness of the request, she’d be happy to open Town Hall and perform the ceremony.

Lin and Shen are part of a growing trend in couples seeking to be married by the Belmont Town Clerk.  Though Cushman only performs a small portion of Belmont’s total number  of marriages, the number of couples who filed for marriage licenses in Belmont grew to 150 couples in 2015, up from what was a fairly static 115 annually for the past decade.                              

So on a “beautiful, sparkling day” – which happened to be the coldest day of the year – the happy couple, their boys and Lin’s parents ascended to the Selectmen’s Room on the second floor for their wedding. The groom looked sharp in a pressed suit while the bride wore a full-length silver embroidered gown that she got “off the rack” the day before.

Because of their shared affection for all things Disney, Cushman added a line from “Winnie the Pooh” in her message to the bride and groom.

“Piglet says, ‘Pooh, how do you spell ‘love’?’ and Pooh responds ‘You don’t spell it … you feel it’,” said Cushman.

With phone cameras recording the event and Lin’s mother making like an experienced paparazzi, the couple exchanged rings, vows and a few tears on their first day as a married couple.

After formal portraits and a banquet with family and friends, the couple and kids will settle into their Knowles Road home, as Cushman noted, “happily ever after, like a Disney movie.”

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