Up to 21,000 Gloucester voters are eligible to go to the polls today.
And with lively races on the ballot and a clear, dry day in the forecast, City Clerk Linda Lowe is optimistic that a fair percentage of them will show up to cast their ballots.
“I think that, because we do have multiple contests, we have good weather, and there’s been an effort by various groups to get people out, I think we’re going to do well,” Lowe said Monday, though she stopped short of making any real turnout prediction.
“You see a lot of (campaign) signs out there,” she noted. “Unless you’re living under a rock, you have to know about it and know it’s going on. There’s been a lot of interest.”
Topping that interest today is the race for mayor between three-term incumbent Carolyn Kirk and challenger Mac Bell, who have carved out different stands and approaches on a variety of issues.
But that’s hardly the only race up for grabs, with a full slate of eight candidates vying for four councilor-at-large seats, nine candidates battling for the six elected seats on the School Committee, contested races in both Ward 2 and Ward 5 — and a nonbinding referendum question asking voters to pick their “preferred use” of the former Fuller School.
The referendum question — while advisory only and last in the ballot’s pecking order — encompasses the far-right column, after all of the candidate races, and may pose some challenges.
In crafting the referendum, city councilors included three options: relocating all or some city offices to Fuller, developing it as a commercial site or developing it as a mixed-use property. They did not include reopening it as a school. And unlike the ballot slots for the elected offices and candidates, there is no referendum write-in line.
That’s prompted some residents in recent days to suggest they’ll just write “school” with the marking pen across the question. Lowe said Monday that’s a bad idea.
“If you have stray marks like that, then it could (affect) the ballot,” Lowe said. “The write-in wouldn’t be counted, and I would hope it wouldn’t (jam) the ballot, but it could, and at the very least, it would force us to count all of the votes on it by hand.
“It wouldn’t count as a write-in, because there is no write-in there,” she continued, “and I would hope it wouldn’t (disqualify) the ballot, because we would go through and see and consider the voter’s intent. But if you’re looking to make a point, that isn’t the way to do it. It wouldn’t accomplish what someone might be trying to accomplish.”
The prospects for a solid turnout today, with all polls open until 8 p.m., aren’t just a matter of guesswork tied to a good weather forecast (partly sunny skies, with a high of 50 and 0 percent chance of rain) and a bevy of campaign signs. The city’s number of registered voters rose this fall to a count of 20,948, up by more than 800 from a year ago.
Also, while voting totals lagged around the 30 percent mark in this past spring’s U.S. Senate special election — “that was disappointing,” Lowe conceded — hotly contested city elections have drawn turnouts of more than 40 percent as recently as 2007.
Despite lows of just over 6,000 voters who cast ballots for mayor two years ago and just over 3,400 in 2009, when the mayor’s race was essentially uncontested, the 2007 race, which began with seven candidates seeking to succeed Mayor John Bell after he decided not to see a fourth term, culminated with a November finale between Kirk and then-Council President James Destino and drew 9,115 votes.
The races on today’s ballot are as follows, with candidates listed in order of their ballot appearance:
Mayor (Vote for 1): Mac S. Bell, Carolyn A. Kirk.
Councilor-at-large (Vote for up to 4): Gregory Verga, Sefatia Romeo Theken, Steven Curcuru, Paul Lundberg, Joseph Ciolino, Dennis Latham, Robert Whitmarsh, Jr., Robert Whynott.
Ward Councilors (Vote for 1):
Ward 2 — Melissa Ann Cox, Ann Frontiero Mulcahey.
Ward 5 — Scotadam Chernov, William Fonvielle.
Note: Candidates in Wards 1, 3, and 4 — Paul McGeary, Steven LeBlanc and Jackie Hardy, respectively, are running unopposed.
School Committee (Vote for up to 6): Kathleen Clancy, JD MacEachern, Michelle Sweet, Melissa Teixeira, Hannah Scialdone Kimberley, Jonathan Pope, Tony Gross, John “Jack” O’Maley, Joel Favazza.
Referendum Question (Future of Fuller School — nonbinding/advisory only: A. Relocate some or all city offices to Fuller site; B. Developer Fuller building as a commercial site; C. Developer Fuller building for a mix of uses.