, Gloucester, MA

November 4, 2012

Decision Time: Cape Ann voters face key choices Tuesday

Up to 30K Cape Ann voters eye polls Tuesday

By Times Staff
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — In less than 24 hours, the subjects of all of the campaign speeches, all of the debates, and all of the political advertising that has dominated TV shows and mailbox deliveries for weeks will await voters’ verdicts.

And some 30,000 registered voters across Cape Ann will be heading to the polls to render those decisions, helping to choose a president, a U.S. senator, a congressional representative and a governor’s councilor, while rendering “yes” or “no” answers to as many as six referendum questions as well.

By virtually all counts, voting officials are expecting near-record tunrouts for Tuesday’s national and state elections, with Essex Town Clerk Christina Wright having predicted earlier that up to 90 percent of the more than 2,200 voters in that town will cast ballots when teh town’s fire station — like polling places across Cape Ann and across the state — open at 7 a.m.

Those polls will remain open until 8 p.m., with some lines expected to be the norm given the level of interest in an election that — beyond the presidential run between incumbent Barack Onama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, includes hotly-contested races between Republican incumbent Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren for a U.S. Senate seat, and a battle between Deocratic incumbent John Tierney and Republican challenge Richard Tisei to be U.S. House reprenstative for the state’s 6th District, which includes all of Cape Ann.

Gloucester alone has 20,910 voters eligible for Tuesday’s elections, up from the 17,014 who were eligible in the last presidential election of 2008, according to city clerk Linda Lowe, with Rockport seeing a similar boost from 5,555 registered in 2008 to 5,791 eligible to vote tomorrow.

And in Gloucester, absentee voting requests as of last Friday had already come close to matching the total number of absentee ballots cast in 2008, with 1,147 received for Tuesday compared to 1,156 cast four years ago. Voters who know they cannot make it to the polls Tuesday can still request an absentee ballot up to noon today, through the completed ballot must be returned and postmarked by the election date of Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Cape Ann’s polling places remain the same as in the past, with one exception in Gloucester. That’s in Ward 2 Precinct 2, where voters will join their Precinct 1 neighbors in casting their ballots at the Our Lady of Good Voyage youth center on Prospect Street, rather than voting separately at the McPherson Park elderly housing facility. That change was approved by Gloucester’s City Council in September. Otherwise, Rockport will welcome voters at its usual three precincts, while all Essex voting will be at the fire station and all voting in Manchester will be at Memorial Elementary School. Here are some of the Election Day nuts and bolts regarding what voters will face on Tuesday.

The ballot

Voters who line up will be confronted by a two-sided ballot that lists the candidates and their respective office along with Question 1 on one page, but the other questions are on the second page, or on the back, depending on the city’s or town’s format. A full sample ballot for Gloucester — but easily adaptable for voters in the Cape Ann towns — was printed in Friday’s Times, which is still available at the Times office on Gloucester’s Whittemore Street. The first office on the ballot is the race for president — but voters may find a surprise there as well. While nearly all voters recognize the race as between the Democratic ticket of Barack Obama/Joe Biden and the Republican slate of Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan, they are actually listed on the second and third lines, respectively. The first line is for Libertarian nominees Gary Johnson and Jim Gray, while a fourth line is for Green-Rainbow Party nominees Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala. There is also a box to check and a line for potential write-in candidates – as there is for every office. The next races listed are the Brown-Warren Senate run and the local congressional race, which includes Beverly Libertarian Daniel Fishman in addition to Tierney and Tisei. That’s followed by the race for a Governor’s Council seat between Democrat Eileen Duff of Gloucester and Maura Ciardiello of Haverhill.

Duff, however, is not the only Gloucester or Cape Ann resident on the ballot. Though state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante do not face any opposition and have not campaigned, their names are on the ballot for voters in Gloucester, Rockport and Essex, while Tarr and Rep. Brad Hill, who is also unopposed, are listed on the ballot in Manchester. Manchester is part of Hill’s state House district. There are also uncontested state ballot races for the Clerk of Courts and Register of Deeds, with Thomas Driscoll Jr. of Swampscott and John O’Brien Jr. of Lynn, respectively, listed as the only candidates for those posts.

The questions

Voters should be aware there are actually two phases of ballot questions — though they simply follow in order on the ballot. The first three questions are binding statewide ballot questions created through initiative petition.

Question 1, which closes out the first page of the ballot, asks whether voters support the so-called Right to Repair measure regarding independent auto shops’ access to auto codes maintained by automakers.

The Legislature reached a compromise “right to repair” measure of its own earlier this year, but the move came too late to take the question off the ballot.

The initiating Right to Repair Coalition and AAA Southern New England, however, have stood by the ballot question as well. Question 2 asks voters to approve a measure aimed at allowing so-called assisted suicide, while Question 2 would allow the use and possession of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The other questions are all non-binding and have been placed on the ballots by state Senate or representative districts, so voters in Gloucester, Rockport and Essex will face three such questions while voters in Manchester have only two. In all four Cape Ann communities, Question 4 will ask voters to tell Ferrante and Tarr to support a measure that would repeal all federal restrictions regarding marijuana and essentially legalize its use — a question and issue different from binding Question 3.

Voters in all for comunities will vote on Question 5, which urges lawakers support for a move to pass a Constitutional amendment striking down the Supre Court’s so-called “Citizens United” ruling that lifted limits on corporate campaign contributions, and calls for allowing states to set their own campaign spending rules and limits.

Question 6, which appears only in Gloucester, Rockport and Essex, calls upon Congress and the president to “prevent” budget cuts to a variety of government programs, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans benefits.

In the voting booth

All of that means that each voter may render up to 14 choices, including the uncontested candidate races. And officials recognize that can take a while.

To that end, Nan Andrew of Rockport and the League of Women Voters of Cape Ann noted some of the polling place regulations. A full letter to the editor by Andrew appears on today’s Opinion page – Page 5.

“Massachusetts voters have the right to privacy in the voting booth, and may remain in the booth for five minutes if there are other voters waiting, or 10 minutes if there are no others waiting,” Anderw noted, citing state voting law.

“Voters may also request assistance from anyone they bring with them, or may ask for help from two poll workers. They may receive up to two replacement ballots if they make a mistake, and may bring their children into the booth with them,” she added. She also noted that “voters have the right to ask questions.”

“If there is anything you don’t understand about voting procedures, please ask a poll worker,” she said. “They have been trained to answer your questions and assist you.

“They may not, of course, give an opinion on the ballot questions or the candidates,” she added. Those decisions are entirely up to you.