Primary Election Poses Challenges for City Clerk

City Clerk Janet Rowe is facing the unprecedented challenge of preparing for and holding an election in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic.

The State Primary Election is Tuesday, Sept. 1, with the U.S. Senate Democratic Primary matching incumbent U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey against Congressman Joe Kennedy III in a race that is generating significant interest and will likely draw a larger than expected turnout at the polls.

Rowe is assembling a team of 165 Election Day workers to be stationed at the 10 polling locations encompassing 28 city precincts.

“Our polling locations are pretty big so we’ll be able to social distance and make sure everybody is safe,” said Rowe.

Rowe has a regular team that generally works at the polls for all elections. But some long-time senior poll workers (“They’ve doing it for years and they’re so good at it,” said Rowe) have indicated that they may not be returning to their positions for the Primary Election. “Maybe by September, things will take a turn and they will work the polls, but right now a lot of them are afraid and are bunkered down and they don’t want to come out and I don’t blame them,” said Rowe.”

Rowe said she may be seeking new workers and  students to assist at the polls.

“If I hire new people, they will have to be trained,” said Rowe. “And we’ll have to figure out a way to hold training sessions that are safe.”

The elections chief said she is pushing hard for residents to consider voting in the Primary by absentee ballot.

The Markey-Kennedy election is a political barnburner. Markey has served in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate since first being elected to Congress in 1976. Kennedy, grandson of former U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy and great-nephew of former President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was first elected to Congress in 2013.

“The State Primary is not typically a huge turnout, usually between 15-20 percent, “But where that (Markey-Kennedy) is such a hotly contested race, it absolutely might bring out more people.”

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