Clerks prepare for 'huge turnout' in Tuesday's election
Northampton City Clerk Wendy Mazza prepares and assembles the necessary Election and Ballot materials Friday for the upcoming election, which is double the work for her as there are both national and local elections.
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Northampton City Clerk Wendy Mazza prepares for today's election, which will include two separate ballots in Northampton, which is taking up a charger revision question.
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For months, municipal clerks all around the Pioneer Valley have been registering new voters, giving out and collecting absentee ballots, and making sure the polls were ready for the high turnout everyone expects. And now it’s the day of the party.
Based on the amount of work they’ve done up until now, clerks are predicting record turnouts today. Williamburg Town Clerk Brenda Lessard said she is not sure which race is the one that sparked the increase, but the change is notable.
“I had a guy come in who was 76 and he registered for the first time in his life,” she said. “He said he was never interested in voting until now.”
In Northampton, City Clerk Wendy Mazza is expecting to see 75 to 85 percent of voters today. “It’s a special municipal election held simultaneously with a presidential election, so I think it’s going to be huge turnout,” she said. “We’ve done so many absentee ballots, it’s crazy — probably 1,800.”
In most larger communities, clerks are predicting a 70 to 85 percent voter turnout, while smaller towns like Williamsburg and Hatfield are expecting 90 percent.
Anticipating crowds, many municipalities hired extra poll workers and some even enlisted police officers to direct traffic.
In most area communities polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., but Election Day in Granby started before dawn — town officials opened polls at East Meadow School at 6 a.m., an hour before most communities in the state.
Granby Town Clerk Katherine Kelly-Regan predicted that 75 percent of voters would hit the polls in Granby today, mainly interested in the presidential race. “That means close to 3,800 people,” she said.
The early-morning voting hour helps boost the numbers, she maintains.
“We’ve opened early for the last two presidential elections, and it really seems to work well,” Kelly-Regan said.
She had to get special permission from the Select Board to open early. “Last time we did it,” she noted, “we got about 300 people voting in the first hour.”
Belchertown Town Clerk William Barnett said he expects between 8,000 to 9,000 of the town’s 9,500 voters — roughly 85 to 95 percent — to cast ballots at the polls at Belchertown High School today. The 2008 election attracted nearly 8,000 voters, he said.
Most clerks said they’re basing their estimates on past presidential elections, as well as the number of absentee ballots they’ve given out and received.
“There are between 200 and 300 absentee ballots that we’ve already mailed out,” Barnett said.
In Williamsburg, Lessard also expects at least a 90 percent turnout. “That’s just based on the amount of people I’m registering, the people calling to make sure they’re registered, and the number of absentee ballot requests,” she said. “I’ve already done 150 absentee ballots. Most other years, it’s been about 60.”
Extra help called for
Voters in Northampton are voting whether to adopt a new city charter, but because of issues getting the question onto the state ballot, the city has to offer two separate ballots at the polls, Mazza said.
Voters have to check in to get the two ballots at two different tables and then check out at two different tables, Mazza said. “It’s going to slow the process down, and it will be tight with the extra tables and poll checkers,” she said.
The city has hired extra poll workers — for a total of 112 — to deal with the high turnout and the extra ballot, she said.
Carlene Hamlin, South Hadley town clerk-treasurer, said there are extra poll workers, as well as additional police officers to handle traffic, at the South Hadley High School polling site. She predicted 70 to 80 percent of the town’s 11,222 registered voters would turn out.
Easthampton City Clerk Barbara LaBombard said she expects to see 75 to 80 percent of voters, Southampton Town Clerk Eileen Couture predicted 85 percent turnout, while Hatfield Town Clerk Louise Slysz thought 90 percent of the town’s 2,568 voters would come out.
Hadley Town Clerk Jessica Spanknebel predicted the turnout would beat the 84 percent she saw at the last presidential election, and Amherst Town Clerk Sandra Burgess said she never predicts a percentage, but added that it would likely be higher than she saw at the last presidential election.
For information on where to vote, visit the Secretary of State’s website at www.sec.state.ma.us.
Reporter Etta Walsh contributed to this story. Rebecca Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.