If you were to walk into City Hall right now, City Clerk Joanne Senos and her staff would still be there counting ballots.
Senos and her team have been working non-stop throughout election week to ensure that everyone’s vote counts as overseas and mail-in ballots continue to roll in. According to the unofficial results of the Nov. 3 election, 17,424 of 22,407 of Gloucester's registered voters cast a ballot.
On Election Day, Senos said many more than 5,000 of those voters went to the polls to cast their ballot. She noted in an email to the Times that the city received 10,455 accepted ballots voted early in person or by mail, and 347 accepted ballots voted absentee in person or by mail.
Four years ago, in 2016, the city saw 78.36% of registered voters turn out to choose between now-President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton.
This Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020, the percentage of votes is lower, with 77.76% of cards cast.
“But we aren’t finished,” Senos explained, noting that the current number of ballots cast will rise.
Senos explained that voters’ choice to do mail-in versus in-person differs with each person.“I have heard both sides,” she said.
Rockport Town Clerk Pat Brown said she expected a higher turnout this election. Eighty-six percent of the town's 6,145 registered voters participated. Of the 5,256 total ballots, 1,499 were submitted in person Tuesday at one of the town's three polling locations.
"It was a little lower than last (presidential election)," she explained. "In 2016, we had 89 percent turnout. I think people were discouraged by the news and what's going on. Maybe they decided they didn't care."
Despite the lower turnout, Brown and Assistant Town Clerk Melanie Waddell had their hands full with work this election. If mail-in ballots are truly the future, Brown said she may have to look into hiring more poll workers.
"We processed 3,800 ballots by hand with just two people," she further explained. "Town Hall was closed (because of COVID-19) so I couldn't get more people in to help. This particular (election) was massive. We had to mail many of them out as well."
On Friday, Brown and Waddell will be recounting the ballots cast at Rockport's Precinct 2 as part of a state-ordered election audit.
Manchester also had a busy night with 1,130 people casting their votes Tuesday at Manchester Essex Regional High School. Another 2,635 ballots were submitted during early voting or through mail.
"We had 4,360 registered voters," said Interim Town Clerk Sharon George, "so that means only 595 people didn't vote."
While on site working the polls, George told theTimes this election was the biggest she's ever worked.
"In 2016, I worked in Wilmington," she said Thursday afternoon. "At the time we did 81 percent. In 2012, we had done 80 percent. I've never seen so many people vote, especially by mail or with early voting. It was hard to keep track at times."
In Essex, of the 2,501 ballots cast, 921 of them were submitted in person.
"It was 86 percent turnout" with 2,895 registered voters, said Town Clerk Pam Thorne. "Previous town clerks never calculated (turn-out percentages). The total votes in 2016 was about 2,200, but obviously we had different registered voters at that time."
Thorne said she got a lot of positive feedback on early voting this year.
"People really appreciated that (the state) expanded that," she said. "Mail-in voting is so new this year, and people who took advantage of it appreciated it, I think. The state was right with the 'Track My Ballot' (an online feature for mail-in ballots). Now this cat is out of the bag, people might start expecting more (mail-in voting options). We'll see how that goes."
Still, Thorne doesn't think the traditional in-person voting model is going anywhere.
"It's tradition," she said. "A lot of people like going to the polls. I certainly do."
According to Pat Brown, the reason people still went to the polls this year is because of security.
"Many people were afraid they wouldn't be counted," she said. "At one point (on Tuesday), we had a jam in the machine. We told people they could leave their ballots with us, but not one person did. They wanted to see it go in the machine and see it be counted."