GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 12, 2012

Election votes already rolling in

Clerks: Signs signal heavy interest, turnout

By Steven Fletcher Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — While the November elections are still a few weeks away, some Cape Ann residents have already cast their votes by absentee ballot.

And the number of absentee ballots handed in — 387 in Gloucester alone, as of Thursday — plus the number of people asking for them, is higher than usual, leading Cape Ann city and town clerks to gear up already for a substantial turnout in November.

City Clerk Linda Lowe said that, beyond receiving nearly 400 absentee votes already, more residents are requesting them each day. During the 2010 special Senate race, between now-Sen. Scott Brown and Attorney General Martha Coakley, the city saw more than 500 absentee ballots turned in.

“We were swamped,” she said.

The high absentee ballot count, Lowe said, usually means a large turnout on Election Day.

With it being a presidential election, that’s expected, Lowe added, but the early interest seems to be exceeding that pace.

In all, 15,055 Gloucester voters cast ballots in the 2008 elections, and Low said she’s already expecting similar numbers on Nov. 6.

“We’re getting absentee ballot requests each day,” said Essex Town Clerk Christina Wright.

Wright said she’s had 80 requests so far, with 18 ballots turned in. She expects a 90 percent turnout at the Essex polls on election day. But, she added, the town also had a 90 percent turnout of 2,200 voters in the 2008 presidential elections, where President Barack Obama won the race over Sen. John McCain.

Registered voters have until noon on Monday, Nov. 5 — the day before the election — to pick up absentee ballots, provided they qualify for one. The deadline for registering to vote, however, is next Wednesday, Oct. 17. Polls open for the elections on Nov. 6.

The Gloucester Clerk’s office, said Lowe, will be open to 8 p.m that day, as will other clerks offices around Cape Ann.

Essex and Gloucester aren’t the only Cape Ann communities seeing high absentee ballot requests. Manchester Town Clerk Denise Samolchuck said she’s had 186 residents request absentee ballots. She said she’s expecting a high turnout, too.

“Right now there are more absentee ballot (requests) than for any election since I’ve been town clerk,” Samolchuck said.

Rockport Town Clerk Pat Brown said she’s also expecting a high turnout, adding that Rockport has had a high turnouts every presidential election, with roughly 80 percent turnouts.

Brown said it’s also too early in the game to tell whether there will be more absentee ballots turned in this year than in previous elections.

“I can’t say, because it’s still early in the game,” she said.

In addition to electing a president, voters will decide two hotly-contested congressional races — the Senate race between incumbent Sen. Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, and the 6th District House of Representatives race among incumbent Rep. John Tierney, Republican challenger Richard Tisei and Libertarian challenger Daniel Fishman.

Voters have three ballot questions this year as well.

Question 1 asks voters to decide whether to implement a “right to repair” law that would require car manufacturers to provide owners with the car’s diagnostic and repair data on all models from 2015 on.

Question 2 asks voters to decide whether to allow physicians to provide life-ending medication to terminally ill patients.

Question 3 asks voters to decide whether to allow medical marijuana in the state.

Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or sfletcher@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.