Last modified: Tuesday, March 01, 2016

AMHERST — Thirteen years after he was first eligible to vote, Nicholas Brown of South Prospect Street cast his first ballot in a presidential primary election Tuesday morning, drawn by the appeal of Democratic candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“This is the first time I actually voted,” said Brown, 31. “I chose actively not to participate because I felt there wasn’t much of a difference in the candidates.”

Brown, speaking at the Bangs Community Center where voters in three precincts were coming to the polls, was accompanied by his wife, Clare Cooke, 26, who also gave her vote to Sanders, saying she “likes everything” about his political views.

Unlike her husband, Cooke said she is an avid voter.

“I love voting and always do,” Cooke said.

Voting for the second time in a presidential election was 21-year-old Pippa Ryan. a University of Massachusetts senior who lives on College Street.

During her freshman year she voted for President Obama. This time, Sanders earned her vote.

“I just feel there’s no corporate b*** s*** agenda with Bernie,” Ryan said. “I feel like he cares about the issues and is not usurped by a higher power.”

Another UMass senior, Heather Ducharme, 21, of Amity Street, wouldn’t disclose her choice for president, but said issues around student debt and the economy resonate with her.

“I’m a college student, so (issues are) student loans, and trying to find a job after I graduate,” Ducharme said.

She also respects her right to vote.

“I’m a firm believer in voting as much as I can,” Ducharme said. “It’s a civic responsibility.”

Sanders also got support from Kathleen Nelson, 63, of State Street,

“We need to reign in greed big time, global warning is in our face, and there’s no more time to play around with greed,” said Nelson, adding that “this seems like an important election.”

A native of Hungary, Gabor Lukacs, 49, of Beston Street, said voting remains a privilege since he first could vote in the United States about five years ago.

In fact, he takes this right seriously both at the national level, and local level, where he serves as a member of Town Meeting and can have some influence over town affairs.

Lukacs’ decision to vote for Sanders was made based on which candidate he thinks will create a better country.

“He tells the truth, he’s enthusiastic about things I think should be done, he’s not connected to Wall Street and he’s not a corporate candidate,” Lukacs said.

While businessman Donald Trump is expected to do well statewide on the Republican side, he appeared to have mostly detractors in Amherst.

“I think it’s a momentous election and pretty scary that Trump may be the (Republican) nominee,” Ryan said.

Brown was more blunt in his criticism. “Donald Trump is a terrible human being,” Brown said.

Voter turnout was hard to gauge early in the day. Town Clerk Sandra Burgess predicted the percentage of voters would be identical to what occurred in the 2012 presidential primary.

“I’m betting 42 percent,” Burgess said.

In the early hours, turnout at the Bangs appeared modest, according to people at the Friends of the Amherst Senior Center bake sale fundraiser.

“I’m surprised we’re not busier,” said Rosemary Kofler, president of the Friends.

Individually wrapped brownies and chocolate chip and oatmeal and raisin cookies were available, as well as pound cake and apple cake by the piece or by the loaf, all made by Senior Center volunteer Elli Hein.

“I was pretty much baking all Saturday and Sunday,” Hein said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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