New election date still to be determined

📸 Screenshot of Sturbridge Board of Selectmen video conference meeting of April 6, 2020.

STURBRIDGE — Local elections have been postponed due to COVID-19, with selectmen planning to discuss new potential dates at their next meeting.

The town election had been scheduled for April 13, but the coronavirus pandemic has necessitated a postponement. During the April 6 video meeting of the Board of Selectmen, Town Clerk Lynne Girouard assured officials safety measures would be taken when elections are eventually held. In the meantime, Girouard said her office has made forms available for 200 absentee and early voting by mail ballots this week. She noted those efforts would continue until the election.

Some selectmen offered possible timeframes for the rescheduled election before agreeing to monitor the progression of the pandemic first.

“I just want to make sure we put it off that we won’t have to do it again,” said selectwoman Mary Dowling. “I don’t want some of the more vulnerable populations, I know they can vote by mail, I don’t want them to feel like they have to choose between going out to vote and being worried about being with a number of people.”

She later added that she would prefer to have the election postponed “later rather than sooner” to alleviate any COVID-19 concerns locals may have going forward.

Selectwoman Priscilla Gimas agreed.

“We need to be sure that everybody is well enough to be able to go out and not have to make that choice,” she said.

Gimas suggested officials were not likely to have information allowing a scheduling decision to be made by the board’s next meeting. She expressed skepticism that “we’re going to see a whole lot of progress in Massachusetts” before selectmen reconvene.

“We haven’t peaked yet, and they tell us that the next two weeks are critical,” she added.

The local election ballot was scheduled to include two three-year terms on the Board of Selectmen, seats currently held by Gimas and chairwoman Mary Blanchard. Ian Dunnigan is running as a challenger for a seat on the Board of Selectmen. The only other contested race on the ballot is for the Tantasqua School Committee, where incumbents Patricia Barnicle and Edward Goodwin are on the ballot alongside challenger Angeline Ellison for two three-year seats. Also appearing on the ballot is one three-year term on the Board of Assessors; one three-year term on the Sturbridge School Committee; one three-year term as constable; one three-year term on the Board of Health; two three-year terms on the Recreation Committee; one three-year term on the Zoning Board of Appeals; and three three-year terms as trustees of the Joshua Hyde Library.

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