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 www.123Voter.com

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 townclerk@belmont-ma.gov 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.

Proposal-2

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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Wednesday, Feb. 10 Deadline to Register, Change Parties for Mar. 1 Presidential Primary

Photo: Register to vote.
The Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman reminds residents that tomorrow, Wednesday, Feb 10 is the deadline to register to vote if they wish to participate in the Massachusetts Presidential Primary on March 1.
 
Feb. 10 is also the deadline for registered voters who wish to change party enrollment either to another party or to “unenrolled,” which is commonly referred to as “independent.” This should not be confused with the United Independent Party (UIP); a party that will have ballots available but with no candidates printed on them. Voters registered in UIP will NOT be eligible to take a Democratic, Republican, or Green-Rainbow ballot, according to Cushman. 
 
“With spirited contests in both parties, pervasive advertising and intense coverage in early primary states, some voters may want to vote for a candidate in a different party from the one they are registered in now,” said Cushman.
 
To do that, however, the voter must switch to the other party or to “unenrolled” status by 8 p.m. Wednesday. 
 
Unenrolled voters or voters enrolled in political designations can ask for any party ballot on Primary Day, but someone registered in a party can only vote on that party’s ballot. A Democrat cannot take a Republican ballot, and a Republican cannot take a Democratic one.
 
The Belmont Town Clerk’s office at Town Hall will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10 for voters who wish to change their party registration status or for persons wishing to register for the first time.
Persons who are United States Citizens, residents of Massachusetts, and who will be at least 18 years old on or before March 1st are eligible to register to vote. Those meeting these qualifications who have a Massachusetts Driver’s License can submit their registration online. Those registering by mail should have their form hand-canceled by the Post Office to ensure it is postmarked before the deadline.
 
For more information, feel free to contact the Belmont Town Clerk’s Office at townclerk@belmont-ma.gov or 617-993-2600.

Town Seeking Election Workers to Help During ‘Busy’ 2016

Photo:

It will be a busy 2016 for voters in Belmont with four planned elections. And the Belmont Board of Registrars and Town Clerk are committed to administering fair, open and efficient elections. 

To do this the Town Clerk’s office rely on the dedicated services of the more than 100 election workers and we’re always looking for more top-notch Belmont voters to join this group. Election workers play a vital role in the democratic process. To properly staff polling locations, we need to add to our pool of election workers for the upcoming 2016 elections:

  • Tuesday, March 1: Presidential Primary Election
  • Tuesday, April 5Annual Town Election
  • Thursday, Sept. 8State Primary Election
  • Tuesday, Nov. 8: Presidential General Election.

Applicants must be registered to vote in Belmont. Training is provided before each election. You’ll learn how elections actually work while earning $10 an hour. 

There are typically two shifts on Election Day:  6 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1 p.m. to approximately 9 p.m.  Workers are not required to work every election; you let the Clerk’s office know which dates and shifts you are available.

“It’s a great way to meet new  people, and learn about elections from the inside,” said Town Clerk Ellen Cushman.

Interested? Visit the election workers page on the Town Clerk’s site or email to townclerk@belmont-ma.gov

A Friendly Reminder: Residents Holding Yard Sales Need a (Free) Permit

Photo: It’s the season for yard sales.
Ah, warm weather; in Belmont that means gardening, barbecues and yard sales. It’s not usual to find a dozen tag, rummage or moving sales around town from spring through fall.
So, it’s well worth remembering that Belmont passed a general private sales bylaw last year requiring a permit for all sales held in town.
The permit is free and can be accessed through the Belmont Town Clerk’s web page. According to Ellen Cushman, the town clerk, the process takes less than one minute to obtain the permit once you know the date and hours of your intended sale. Other required fields are name, address, phone and email address where the permit will be emailed.
If the person running the sale doesn’t use email, the permit can be obtained with assistance of the Town Clerk’s staff at 617-993-2600. The address and hours of your sale are the only fields that will be viewable by the public and potential customers.
 
The advantage for people who obtain a permit is that the sales time and address is placed on the  Town Clerk’s website and placed on a map.
 
To access the permit, read the bylaw and/or view upcoming private sales with permits on the Town Clerk’s web page.

Town Clerk: Know Where a Political Sign Can and Can’t Be Displayed

Photo:

Here is a reminder from Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman to all residents who have or are about to display a political sign:

“The Town Clerk reminds residents that all campaign and political signs MUST only be placed for display on private property.

Specifically, the sidewalk strip” or “tree strip”  in front of your home, as well as the delta islands, playgrounds, school grounds and parks are all public property and no signs may be placed there. 

If a campaign or political sign is being held, the person holding the sign may stand or sit on the public property to display the sign, however the sign may not be left unattended or leaning against a wall or tree awaiting the next sign holder. At no time can a person holding the sign obstruct the public’s access to the public property.

If you are out and about in Belmont and notice a campaign or political sign located on public property, please email townclerk@belmont-ma.gov or phone the Town Clerk’s office at 617-993-2600. We will contact the campaign to have the sign moved immediately or have it removed.”