Rotary’s Project Spirit: Volunteer to assist with the elections

by beth on August 27, 2020

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The Southborough Rotary Club is urging the public to help elections go smoothly next week and this fall. Volunteers are sought for Tuesday, and eventually for the upcoming Presidential Election.

The “Project Spirit” initiative was launched to offer a “safety net” for Town Clerks grappling with the new demands this election season.

Southborough Rotary’s President, Robert Bussey works in the Commonwealth’s elections division. He tells me that he heard from Town Clerks stressed or overwhelmed by the burdens of expanded early voting and safety protocols. He reasoned that since there are Rotary Clubs in every town, they could each offer support. 

Bussey first reached out to Southborough’s Town Clerk Jim Hegarty “as a proof of concept”. In our town, Rotary is organizing volunteers to help at the polls. Volunteers will be responsible for asking voters waiting three questions to identify anyone at high risk of being infected with Covid-19:

The intent is to prevent people that may be higher risk from entering the location. If they answer yes to any of the three questions, the Clerk will be notified and a ballot will be brought outside for the voter.

If you would like to lend a hand, click here to sign up for a shift on Tuesday, September 1st. (Volunteers must be 16 years or older.) You can also contact Bussey (bussey@vurohege.com) to let him know your interest in helping with the general election.

Having worked out details for helping out Southborough, Bussey shared the general concept with other Rotaries. He posted an announcement asking them to reach out to their Town Clerks to see in what ways they would welcome support:

Muncipal clerk’s offices around the Commonwealth are struggling with an overwhelming workload due to the pandemic during upcoming elections. Ensuring the functioning of clerks’ offices is going to require more hands on deck than ever before.

Project Spirit!, as in the Spirit of 1776, is a volunteer initiative from your local Rotary club to lend a helping hand during this time of a pandemic, social unrest and elections.

Do you have a spare hour or two a day, a week or a month where you can help the Town or City Clerk’s office keep pace with challenging requirements of conducting regular business while answering residents’ inquiries about the COVID-19 pandemic and running both a Primary Election and a General Election?

Clerk’s offices are short-staffed, overworked, overwhelmed and worried about being able to do their job since the pandemic began. They need help to do their regular duties plus the increase in election-related duties due to House.Bill 4820, “An Act relative to voting options in response to COVID-19,” signed recently into law by Governor Charlier Baker.

They have been at the city and town halls, working behind closed doors while receiving non-stop questions from visitors and phone calls. They know COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon, and expect last-minute surges of resident requests right before the Primary Election on September 1 and the General Election on November 3.

What can you do to help?

Reach out to your city or town clerk and help alleviate some of their work burdens due to the extended voting options for the Primary and General elections. Some examples are: stuffing envelopes; and, counting ballots. Your local clerks will know best how they need assistance. This may take place at your town or city hall, your own home, a school gym, or other agreed-upon venues.

Think of Rotary as being a safety net for municipal clerks in their time of need – now through November 3.

Bussey tells me that the idea has spread. A number of other Rotaries have already adopted the project, including Westborough.

As for Southborough, if you are wondering why Rotary volunteers aren’t helping with mailings or inside the polls. . . Bussey explained that was Hegarty’s choice. The Town Clerk is would rather hire and train workers for certain tasks.

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