Town Clerks Prepare for Election, Town Meetings

Grace Allen
Issue Date: 
November, 2018
Article Body: 

With an election and town meetings on the calendar, Norfolk and Wrentham town clerks are gearing up for a busy month.
Both Carol Greene, Norfolk’s town clerk, and Cindy Thompson, Wrentham’s town clerk, expect higher voter turnout than usual for the November 6 election.
“What’s going on at the national level may draw people to vote,” acknowledged Greene. “People have an opinion one way or the other and I think that’s going to drive voter turnout.”
Thompson agreed, saying both the ballot questions and the candidates may spur more people than usual to vote in the upcoming election. In Massachusetts, three questions with the potential for major impact will appear on the ballot.
In Norfolk, Greene says there are about 7,400 registered voters, while Thompson said Wrentham has 8,469 registered voters (1,246 are considered “inactive” because they did not respond to the 2018 census).
The number of registered voters that actually cast a ballot, however, can vary wildly. In this year’s state primary, Thompson said there was a 16.5% turnout, but in town elections Wrentham averages between 6% and 10%.
“I was pleasantly surprised on the outcome of the recent state primary,” said Thompson.
In Norfolk, the numbers are similar, especially in the town elections, unless there is a hot-button question like an override, said Greene.
“It depends on the election. It depends on what’s on the ballot,” she said. “For the last presidential election, we had about an 80% turnout. There tends to be more interest in the state elections every two years than there is in the town elections, which is unfortunate.”
The number of absentee ballot requests may give a hint as to the interest in the November 6 election. At Local Town Pages press time, Wrentham had received 82 absentee ballot requests, while Norfolk had received close to 100. Both clerks expect those numbers to grow.
Absentee voting is permitted until noon on Monday, November 5.
Early voting will also likely have an impact on the number of people who cast a ballot this year. Early voting started in 2016 in an effort to boost voter turnout, and Thompson said over 28% of Wrentham voters participated in early voting that first year.
Norfolk’s town clerk anticipates a big interest in early voting, and believes it will drive turnout in future elections as more people become aware of the option.
“I think early voting will be huge,” said Greene. “It’s much more convenient for people. It’s great for us as a commuter town and great for the senior citizens. At the school where we hold the elections, the handicap spaces are quite far from the door. It’s a tough walk for some of our seniors.”
Early voting runs through November 2.
After the state election, both town clerks will turn their attention to the fall town meetings. Wrentham will hold its Special (Fall) Town Meeting on November 19, while Norfolk’s will be held on November 27.
Both clerks lament the lack of interest in town meeting, however.
“I always hope for more turn out at local town meetings,” said Thompson. “It’s the chance for residents to vote on the town’s budget and to see how their tax dollars are being spent.”
Greene said town meeting turnout tends to hinge on whether there are high-interest issues on the agenda.
“We get a huge showing at town meeting if there is a specific article people want passed,” she explained. “Then people will show up en masse to vote for it and then they get up and leave.”
Greene said people generally tend to focus on the national scene, to the detriment of local elections and town meetings.
“This is where you live. This is where your taxes are being spent, and this is where your schools are,” said Greene. “These are the people that you are electing to run the town you live in and that are making the decisions for the town you live in. What happens on a national scale affects your everyday life a lot less than what happens in your local municipality.”
Visit the town clerks’ websites for complete voting information: and (click on the Departments tab to find the town clerk’s page), or visit