Letter To The Editor: Belmont’s Poll Workers and Election Staff are Amazing

Photo: Election workers

Dear Neighbors and Voters of Belmont:

While many Americans are focused on the results of the Nov. 3  Presidential Election, I  call special attention to our fellow Belmont neighbors who served as election workers to guarantee the rightful exercise of our treasured right to vote, even in the midst of a global pandemic.  They did a fabulous job and need to be recognized for their work:

The Official Election Results for Belmont have not yet been finalized, but the official results will be certified by Nov. 18.  

Exactly 81.99 percent of Belmont’s voters cast ballots in the Nov. 3 election. That’s 15,038  people – of whom more than 12,100 voted during the fourteen days of the In-Person Early Voting period or Voted by Mail. The conclusion: a vigorously active electorate and even more amazing election workers and staff. We enjoyed expert assistance from many town departments, but most particularly the Police, Public Works, Fire, Library, Council on Aging, School Department, Facilities, Treasurer, Information Technology, Community Development, Select Board’s office, Health Department, Emergency Management and others. Lastly, the members of the press/media covering Belmont, each of our media outlets, got the word out to our residents to let them know the details of voting which really made a difference.

More than 200 election workers were trained and ready to go; 116 actually wound up working during the Early Voting Period or on Election Day itself along with the fantastic, hard-working staff of the Town Clerk’s office :

  • Rising before the sun to arrive at the polls by 6 a.m. and be open to voters by 7 a.m.:
  • Happily greeting every voter;
  • Checking in and out thousands of voters and processing absentee and early voting ballots, some routine, some needing extra help;
  • Researching voter information so voters who needed to go to a different precinct or community to vote could do so;
  • Helping voters who needed a little physical help or extra time;
  • Expertly responding to hundreds of phone calls from precinct election workers and voters from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Election Day and many days before and after;
  • Opening and tabulating more than 10,000 Early Voting ballots, while ensuring a secret ballot for all voters;
  • Posting signs, now-famous blue arrows to direct voters along with COVID-19 reminders;
  • Giving up hours at home with family in the evenings and even holiday weekends;
  • Scheduling the workers like an air traffic controller;
  • Processing and mailing more than 2,000 Absentee Ballots, including hundreds to Members of the Military and Overseas Citizens;
  • Registering 1,973 new voters since Jan. 1, 2020 and deleting many more so they could vote in their new communities;
  • Keeping everyone’s spirits buoyed, even when face-to-face with an angry voter when we made a mistake;
  • Closing out the polls, accounting for every ballots and all the legal requirements so we could post Belmont’s results to the website;
  • Most importantly, enjoying one another’s company and looking forward to working the next Belmont election.

We are extremely proud of the work these folks accomplished to make Belmont’s election a huge success with accurate results and we thank them sincerely for their efforts, their attitude and their willingness to participate so wonderfully in this open election process. 

When you see them around town, we encourage you to thank them in person.

With thanks and in awe of:

JoyceThe Voice
Paulavan Horn

Town Clerk’s Staff Members


Ellen O’Brien Cushman, Town Clerk and Fellow Members of the Board of Registrars of Voters: Robert McGaw, Paul Minor and Stephen Shestakofsky

Election Day In Belmont: Biden Takes Belmont As Mr. Kelley Goes To Town Hall To Vote

Photo: Nicole Howkins voted at Precinct 7.

It took several minutes for Fred Kelley to move up the ramp into Town Hall. Moving quite slowly with the aid of a walker, the 86-year-old Beatrice Circle resident was visibly struggling to make it into the building. The former Navy flyer and recruiter had to stop twice on the ramp, straining to catch his breath.

But living 63 years with diabetes and a frail body did not stop Kelley from coming to his precinct polling station to vote in person.

“I’m still around,” said Kelley, as he exited the elevator to the second floor of Town Hall. “When asked when was the first time he voted, Kelley looked up and said, “I really don’t know.”

But with the help of family. poll workers and Belmont Police Lt. Kristin Daley, the veteran was able to mark his ballot and then slip it into the recorder.

When asked why did he made this herculean effort just to register his vote, Kelley leaned forward and after taking three hesitant breaths said in a steady voice, “I want good government and I wanted true government.”

“I want government that helps, not hurt. To do good and avoid evil. I always lived my life that way and I hope to die that way.”

With the exception of a single incident where a voter at Precinct 7 got huffy when asked to remove a mask which promoted a presidential candidate, election day in Belmont was peaceful with short waits and a “I Voted” sticker waiting at the end of the process.

It was also when registered voters took extraordinary advantage of mail-in, absentee and early voting as 12,100 of the town’s 18,341 registered voters cast their ballots before Nov. 3, according to Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman.

At the close of the polls at 8 p.m., 15,038 Belmontians voted, which is 82 percent of eligible voters. In comparison, 82.4 percent voted in the last presidential election in 2016.

It surprised no one that blue Belmont gave its overwhelming support to former VP Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris for president and vice president with more than three-quarters of voters filling the oval beside their names. Incumbent President Trump saw his support in the Town of Homes fall from 21.4 percent in 2016 to 19.6 percent (3,106 votes in 2016 vs 2,920 votes).

The only vote which Belmont was an outlier to the statewide vote was on Question 2 which would allow ranked choice voting in state and local elections. The question lost statewide 54 percent to 45 percent.

Unofficial results, Nov. 3, 2020

President/Vice Presidentvotespercent of vote
Biden/Harris (D)11,60577.7
Trump/Pence (R)2,92019.6
US Senatevotespercent of vote
Edward Markey (D)11,41177.4
Kevin O’Connor (R)3,24022.0
US House of Rep, 5th CD votespercent of vote
Katherine Clark (D)11,18877.0
Caroline Colarusso (R)3,33022.9
Senate in the General Courtvotespercent of vote
William Brownsberger11,76298.2
Rep. in the General Courtvotespercent of vote
David Rogers11,50698.6
Question 1 (Right to Repair)votespercent of vote
Question 2 (Ranked-Choice Voting)votespercent of vote
Question 3 (Alternative Energy)votespercent of vote

Belmont Votes: 2020 Presidential Election

Photo: Go out and get your sticker

Voting in the Massachusetts Presidential Election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 3. 

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters wishing to cast their ballot on Election Day must go to their assigned voting precinct.

All voters are requested to wear a mask when entering the polling place to keep our election workers and other voters safe. Please be alert to the changes in the flow of access for each precinct as the layouts have been changed to support proper social distance. In most cases, one-way access has been instituted. Please be patient as a limited number of voters will be permitted in the polling places at any time.

Belmont’s voting precincts:

  • Precinct One: Belmont Memorial Library, Assembly Room, 336 Concord Ave.
  • Precinct Two: Belmont Town Hall, Select Board Room 455 Concord Ave.
  • Precinct Three: Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.
  • Precinct Four: Daniel Butler School Gym, 90 White St.
  • Precinct Five: Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.
  • Precinct Six: Belmont Fire Headquarters, 299 Trapelo Rd.
  • Precinct Seven: Burbank School Gym, 266 School St.
  • Precinct Eight: Winn Brook School Gym, 97 Waterhouse Road, Enter From Cross St.

Inactivated Voters

Voters who have been informed that their voting status has been changed to Inactive should be prepared to present identification before being permitted to vote.

If You Requested a Vote By Mail Ballot But Prefer to Vote In Person

Voters who have requested an absentee or an early vote by mail ballot should expect that the precinct will check with the Town Clerk to determine if a ballot has already been received for that voter.

All the information you need to know about elections in Belmont can be found here.

One Week To Vote: A Q&A With Town Clerk On Early Voting, Election Day

Photo: Early voting at Town Hall continues to Friday

There are mailers filled with voter requests stacked behind the plexiglass on the front desk of the Belmont Town Clerks office at Town Hall. Across the hall, volunteers are helping residents with the early voting process while other voters are jump out of their vehicles to place mail-in ballots into the town’s official “drop box.”

With the 2020 presidential election one week away, it was expected that the small full-time staff and Town Clerk Ellen Cushman would be busy with a myriad of tasks; from answering requests, preparing Belmont’s eight polling stations, having everything prepped for Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Now add to the usual election preparations a coronavirus pandemic, running an early election operation in Town Hall and an explosion in mail-in ballots, it’s about as busy as Santa’s workshop the day before Christmas in the Clerk’s office.

For Ellen Cushman, Belmont’s Town Clerk, the goal of her office in the coming seven days is to make the process of voting as smooth and worry free as possible. The Belmontonian spoke with Cushman at Town Hall to ask her view of the upcoming election.

Belmontonian: Across the country, there have been extraordinary numbers in states and cities in regards to early voting. What has been the experience here?

Cushman: In Belmont, we have 18,000 registered voters, and we’ve mailed out more than 11,000 ballots. To date, we have 9,000 of those in hand, so we’re about at 50 percent of all voters having cast their ballots and are done. We still have about 2,800 ballots that are floating around out there and they’re deciding whether they’re going to turn them in, or they’re going to vote on Election Day. Then there are the remaining 7,000 who haven’t made a mail-in request or have early voted.

Q: So how many, so how much longer do people have before. Do they have to vote, either coming in, either early voting like we have here, or via mail,

Cushman: If you want to file a vote by mail request and receive a ballot to be mailed to you. You have until Wednesday, October 28 to file that request at 5 p.m. To request a ballot by mail, go online on to the Secretary of the Commonwealth portal – it’s also a great place to check whether your ballot has been returned, whether you’re a registered voter and where you would vote. You can just also go to that same site, print the “vote by mail application” and then you would have to fax it to us, email it to us, or drop it in our Dropbox out in front of Town Hall. Any of those three is acceptable. But again by the deadline is Oct. 28.

You can also vote by coming into Town Hall and do early voting in person. Early continues until Friday, Oct. 30. The schedule is

  • Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Friday; 8 a.m. to noon

And if you miss those two early options, you can always show up on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3 at one of the eight Belmont precincts based on where you live.

Q: Due to the average age of election workers, somce towns are having trouble getting enough staff for Nov. 3. What is the situtation in Belmont?

Early voting starts here.

Cushman: We’ve been doing great. We have a lot of wonderful seasoned workers for have been here for a long time but who were not able to do so because they were in higher-risk categories due to COVID. We were down definitely before our June Town Election so we put out a call to people and we got a tremendous response who heard that maybe the election was going to be compromised in terms of our ability to recruit and keep poll workers. In the end, we’ve got 210 qualified election workers. I think we’re going to be deploying about 120 of them on election day.

Q: This could be a record turnout for the country in term of voters. What do you think the percentage is going to be in Belmont?

Cushman: I am not going to predict but I will tell you if you looked at the past, Belmont is a very heavy voting community particular if you look at the state election two years ago. In 2018, Belmont was at 74 percent, one of the highest in the state. Our presidential elections in November usually hangs out somewhere in the lower 80s, 85 percent. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s in that zone; it certainly feels that way to us there’s a tremendous amount of interest, a lot of energy, people are excited to get involved in the process.

Q: With the volume of ballots and new procedures, have any issues cropped up from the public?

Cushman: We have had only a couple of people who are unhappy with what they’re finding as they’re going through the process. They thought they could requested a ballot by mail and then came here in person and be able to put their ballot through the voting machine. Massachusetts laws only allows voters to do that on Election Day. So we’ve only had a couple of those sort of intersections which were less than fulfilling but that’s what happens when you have 18,000 people trying to vote.

Q: Any final words for the voters week before the election?

Cushman: The polls at the precincts are open on Election Day at 7 a.m. and close promptly at 8 p.m. If you are in line at 8 p.m., you will still be able to vote.

And prepare to be patient. This is a very unusual year. All of our polling places had to be reconfigured for the June and September elections and we’re using the same sort of configurations: one way in, one way out as much as we can and all of the voting booths are at least six-feet apart. Some of our polling locations had to be diminish or cut back on the number of booths that we’re offering, so the number of people who will be allowed in the polling place to vote will likely be smaller. So bring a Sudoku or crossword puzzle, headphones or a book. People are used to just picking their time, walking in walking out.

It might be a reset of what their expectation is and that’s where we are.

In Person Early Voting: Saturday, Oct. 17 To Friday, Oct. 30 At Town Hall


According to the Town Clerks webite, In-Person Early Voting begins in Belmont on Saturday, Oct. 17, and lasts until Friday, Oct. 30. Registered voters can come to Town Hall to cast their ballots; it is the only location where early voting for the 2020 Presidential election will take place.

The schedule for Early In-Person Voting is:

  • Saturday, Oct. 17, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 18, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Monday, Oct. 19, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 20, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 21, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Thursday, Oct. 22, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 23, 8 a.m. to noon.
  • Saturday, Oct. 24, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 25, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Monday, Oct. 26, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 27, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 28, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Thursday, Oct. 29, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 30, 8 a.m. to noon.

Early In-Person voting ends at Noon on Friday, Oct. 30.

‘Vote By Mail’ Postcards Mailed To Belmont’s Registered Voters.

Photo: A sample of the ‘Vote By Mail’

Planning to vote in the State Primary Sept. 1 or the Presidential Election Nov. 3

This is certainly a different election season and different behavior will help to keep us all safe and guarantee your ballot gets counted on Election Day.  The Massachusetts Legislature voted new entitlements in the Election Laws that allow all registered voters to vote by mail, with no excuse necessary.

Every registered voter of Belmont who had not already filed an application to receive an Absentee Ballot or Early Voting Ballot by mail for the fall elections was mailed a postcard last week by the Commonwealth.  

Ellen Cushman, Belmont’s Town Clerk, encourages all Belmont voters to consider voting early by mail, instead of going to the polls on Election Day. Every voted ballot received by the deadline will be counted in the official election results.  

The postcard to “Vote by Mail” is pre-printed with the voter’s name and voter ID and is intended to make requesting a Vote by Mail ballot extraordinarily simple. The voter can choose to receive a ballot for the Presidential Election only or the State Primary only, or both.  

Voters wanting to vote in the State Primary must indicate the party ballot for us to send: Democratic, Republican, Green-Rainbow, or Libertarian. If no choice is made, no ballot can be sent. The voter must sign the card to receive a ballot.

How to Get Your Vote by Mail Card to Us

Once you’ve made your selections and signed your card, there are a few ways to get it to the Town Clerk’s office so your ballot can be mailed to you.  

  • The preferred method is to use our Town Clerk drop box located at the base of the stairs to Town Hall at parking lot level. We empty the box frequently and you will be certain of the date we received your application/postcard.  
  • You can drop the postcard at the Post Office or a US Mailbox. The card is already postage-paid and will be delivered to us once processed and sorted by the Post Office. Be aware that this can take several days.

Please consider filing your Vote by Mail postcard now; ballots are mailed out in the order that we receive the requests so the later requests squeeze the time allowed for you to receive and return your ballot to us.  

If You Didn’t Receive a Post Card but Want to Vote by Mail

Registered voters who already have valid requests to receive an absentee ballot or an early voting ballot would not receive the new postcard. Voters can confirm that they have a valid current request by visiting the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Elections site:    http://www.sec.state.ma.us/wheredoivotema/track/trackmyballot.aspx

Application forms to request a Vote by Mail Ballot or an Absentee Ballot are also available on the Town Clerk pages on the Town of Belmont website:   https://www.belmont-ma.gov/town-clerk and select the link on the left of page. These applications, containing the voter’s information and signature, can be emailed to Voting@Belmont-ma.gov  or faxed to 617-993-2601.

In Person Early Voting dates and hours have not yet been established; stay tuned for updated bulletins.

The Town Clerk and the Board of Registrars of Voters Encourages All Belmont Voters to take advantage of Vote By Mail to keep Belmont voters and Belmont election workers safe.  If you have any questions, please email voting@Belmont-ma.gov or call the Town Clerk’s office at 617-993-2603.  All voted ballots received by the Town Clerk by the deadline will be counted.

Register to Vote Now if You Aren’t Already Registered to Vote in Belmont

Voter registration, and change of party deadlines:

  • August 22 to be eligible to vote in the Sept. 1 State Primary
  • October 24 to be eligible to vote in the Nov. 3 Presidential Election

Once you’re registered to vote and remain at the same address, there is no need to register again. 

To register to vote, or change your voting address, party affiliation or name, to find out whether and where you are already registered, or where you vote, visit: www.RegisterToVoteMA.com

‘A Big Ask’: Town To Seek $12M-$14M Prop 2 1/2 Override Likely In November

Photo: Tom Caputo, chair of the Financial Task Force 2.

With town finances at the precipice of a financial black hole coming this time next year, the Belmont Select Board will ask voters to pass the largest Proposition 2 1/2 override in the town’s history of between $12 to $14 million.

“It’s a big ask,” said Tom Caputo, Select Board member and chair of the Financial Task Force II Committee on Thursday, June 25 as the town faces the duel impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on state and local revenues while battling a persistent structural deficit that has become the hallmark of Belmont’s fiscal woes.

“It is an incredibly challenging time to contemplate anything of this scale even in a great economy … It is particularly challenging in an environment where we’re looking at an economic recession,” said Caputo.

If the override is successful, the impact the average home assessed at $1.2 million will result in an additional $1,250 to a homeowner’s annual tax bill. If rejected, the town and schools would be required to make crippling levels of cuts in staffing and teachers, limit or cancel programs and cuts in essential services such as police, fire and schools.

“What we hope folks will appreciate is that there is no one silver bullet going to solve this problem,” said Caputo, pointing out that bridging the $12 million deficit with just employee cuts would require a reduction of approximately 120 full time equivalents (FTEs) positions.

“This is not trimming [costs], these are substantial reductions in order to achieve” balanced budgets starting with fiscal year 2022, said Caputo.

Timetable for November override by the Financial Task Force 2.
(Image: Town of Belmont)

While the date of the override remains fluid, the task force’s preferences are to link the vote to the Tuesday, Nov. 3 presidential election as the town can anticipate an 80 percent voter turnout – in 2016 82.4 percent of voters cast a ballot – which will provide a “fair and accurate read” of residents sentiment, according to the Select Board’s Adam Dash.

Others believe the November date doesn’t give the town enough time to “educate” voters on the need for a revenue push of such a historic amount.

The reason for the proposed override is the combination of the town’s structural budget deficit which is the result of the town’s nearly exclusive reliance on residential property taxes coupled with a 2 1/2 increase limit on the town’s property tax levy.

While constrained on the revenue side, town expenses related to skyrocketing school enrollment, a steady need for capital improvements and key cost drivers such as health and pension costs, employment expenses and mandated school services continue to rise yearly by 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent. The structural deficit alone would have required an $8 to $9 million override to close in fiscal 2022. Add the continued impact of the COVID-19 on state and town revenue of $3 to $4 million and the override comes in the $12 million range.

The Board and Task Force have expressed some optimism if the override is approved the funds will last several years more than the current projected three years just like the 2015 override.

The most recent Prop 2 1/2 override occurred in April 2015 when voters passed – 55 percent to 45 percent – a $4.5 million increase in property taxes to fund schools, town services, capital projects, road repair and sidewalks. It was the only override to pass in the past 17 years.

Originally meant to last three years, a combination of thoughtful planning, fiscal prudence and a good state economy allowed the town to stretch the funds through the current fiscal year.

The joint committees also agreed that seeking voters’ approval for an override must be conjoined with a concrete five-year budgetary blueprint to mitigate the structural deficit by seeking new sources of revenue and discovering ways to tame costs associated with employee pensions and health insurance.

Despite a great deal of heavy lifting by Belmont officials, residents and town boards and committees to pass the unprecedented override, Dash stated his confidence the measure will pass voters muster.

“I think we have a compelling case,” he said. “[The override] is not due to bad management … it’s due to just some structural issues we’re trying to address in addition to the COVID which is totally unpredictable.”

“If we put the case out there and we show people what they’ll get with it and what they’ll lose without it, they’ll make a fair decision and we’ll move on,” Dash said.