By Ally Lanasa, Staff Writer
(June 25,2020) Although Berlin residents were invited to participate in Monday night’s mayor and council public hearing on changes to absentee voting requirements, the absence of questions allowed the council to approve the election law amendment with a unanimous vote.
Under the amendment, voters will not have to provide a reason for their absentee ballot requests.
“The idea is we’re just trying to bring our code in compliance with what is the reality nowadays,” Mayor Gee Williams said. “In the old days, you had to be out of town or have an excuse … now it’s a matter of personal choice.”
Applications for absentee ballots for the Oct. 6 Berlin municipal election are due by Oct. 2.
In addition, the town has been preparing for a resurgence of the coronavirus by evaluating three options for voting in the town election.
“This is something that I worked on in an abundance of caution rather than waiting until the last minute to try to figure out what we’re doing with the election,” said Deputy Town Administrator Mary Bohlen. “I based this on a lot of assumption about what might be happening with the coronavirus pandemic at that time.”
The first option is to proceed as normal with in-person and absentee ballot voting. Voters and poll workers will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing as appropriately marked on the floor.
“If they don’t have one [face mask] with them, we’ll do our best to provide disposables,” Bohlen said.
She added that absentee ballot voting will be encouraged.
Of the two polling places, one is new. Districts 3 and 4 voters will vote at the Berlin Police Department, 129 Decatur Street, this year. Districts 1 and 2 voters will vote at Buckingham Presbyterian Church, 20 S. Main Street.
The second option is mail-in voting, which will add $4,500 in expense to the 2021 fiscal year budget.
Lastly, the third option is to postpone the election. This would extend the current terms of sitting elected officials and all deadlines for the election.
At this time, the plan is to proceed with the Oct. 6 election as usual.
Additional poll workers will be hired to maintain an orderly process.
For more information, visit berlinmd.gov.