Bedford voters cast ballots in the annual town election March 14, but as notable as the results were the special steps town officials took to keep voters safe from the novel coronavirus.
In planning for the election, the town took several measures to facilitate social distancing at its single polling place in the gymnasium of the John Glenn Middle School, according to interim Town Clerk Rosemary Harvell.
Among them were spacing the voting booths 6 feet apart and using tape markings on the floor to ensure residents in line to vote were separated by 6 feet. The tables used to check voters in and out were also arranged to maintain a 6-foot distance between voters and election workers.
Additionally, the pens used to mark ballots were sanitized by election workers after each use -- ensuring each voter received a clean one -- and booths were cleaned after each use.
Sanitizing wipes were available to voters at each table, and all election workers who came into contact with voters wore gloves. In place of the plastic canvas that normally covers the voting booths, paper covering was placed on three sides.
“The voters were very respectful and courteous, and appreciative of the workers,” said Harvell, a retired Sudbury town clerk.
Harvell said she was also pleased that so many voters turned out at a time of heightened fears about the spread of the virus. A total of 1,240, or 12.3 percent of Bedford’s eligible voters, cast ballots, above the 700 to 900 voters Harvell said is typical.
“I think people were very excited about coming in personally to vote,” she said. “They seemed grateful we had put all the pieces in place."
A number of town departments teamed up in planning the special safety measures, Harvell said, also citing the contributions of town workers and volunteers.
In the only contest for town office, incumbent Edward M. Pierce and Bopha Malone won a three-way race for two seats on the Select Board, outpacing Planning Board member and former selectman Mark Stephen Siegenthaler. Pierce had 864 votes and Malone 802, with Siegenthaler earning 574. Incumbent Michael Rosenberg did not seek reelection.
A vice president for Enterprise Bank in Lowell, Malone ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for Congress in 2018. A Cambodian who as a child fled her native country with her family to escape the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, Malone is past board president of a Lowell-based organization that serves the area Cambodian-American community. She moved to Bedford in 2016.
“I’m super excited about winning the seat,” she said, noting that she ran because she believes as a growing town Bedford needs new residents like her “to step up, contribute, and lead our community.”
Malone said she was pleased with how town officials planned for the election “and how they put the safety of residents first and foremost.”
“I’m grateful to the voters of Bedford for reelecting me to the Select Board, and thankful they were willing to come out and vote in the town election in this uncertain time,” said Pierce, who is beginning his second term on the board after previously serving on the School Committee, the Finance Committee, and the Recreation Commission.
Eleven candidates were elected without opposition. Voters also approved by large margins eight amendments to the town charter, including a measure to change the name of the Board of Selectmen to the Select Board.
John Laidler can be reached at email@example.com.