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Voter turnout better than expected

June 25, 2013

BLACKSTONE — The hot and humid weather Tuesday was no hindrance to Lou Ryan as she made her way into the Municipal Center with her daughter, Sharon Finn, of New Hampshire, to vote in the special state election filling U.S. Senator John Kerry’s vacant seat senate.
Ryan, 80, was on a mission to record her vote for one of the three candidates on the local ballot but declined to say whether she favored Republican Gabriel E. Gomez, Democrat Edward J. Markey, or Independent Richard A. Heos. The candidates were seeking to replace Kerry, now Secretary of State, until the next regular election for the seat in November 2014.
“Just want to make sure that I voted,” Ryan said. “To me, it is very important that people vote.”
The voting turnout in the special Senate election was supposed to be very light Tuesday but area town clerks reported that voters were going to the polls in numbers even better than expected.
Ryan offered that since the voting was only for a short-term office, until Nov. 2014, some people might have decided to wait for the full-term election before getting involved.
That wasn’t the case for her, Ryan said. “I want to help the best man to get in,” she said.
Blackstone Town Clerk Claudette Dolinski said she was actually surprised by the interest voters were showing in the special election contest.
By 2 p.m., a total of 613 votes, approximately 10 percent of the 6,107 eligible town voters, had been recorded in the town’s three precincts, two being voted in the Municipal Center and a third at the St. Theresa Church parish hall on Rathbun Street.
“National Public Radio was predicting a turnout of about 37 percent but I don’t know what it will be in Blackstone,” Dolinski said.
Special elections can be unpredictable, she noted.
When Scott Brown and Martha Coakley faced-off in a special election to fill the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s seat in January 2010, the local turnout for the election was 53 percent of the eligible voters, Dolinski said.
While the turnout on Tuesday was around 10 percent during the day, Dolinski expected activity at the polls would pick up as people came home from work and voted before the polls closed at 8 p.m.
“There may be more people going out to vote when it is cooler,” she said.
Bellingham Town Clerk Ann Odabashian said the five polls being run out of the high school’s gymnasium in that community were busy with voters for the special election on Tuesday.
“We’ve been steady all day, which surprises me,” Odabashian said. The clerk received a total of 75 absentee ballots, which she said was a good number for a special election.
Odabashian also did not see the warm weather as stopping voters from showing up at the polls and noted that the weather was more of a problem for her poll workers.
“They are sitting in a gym that is not air conditioned,” she said.
Town and school facilities personnel were helping out by supplying fans for the polling place and also lots of water, Odabashian said.
Bellingham had just under 1,000 votes in by Tuesday afternoon, approximately 8-9 percent of the town’s eligible voters, but Odabashian was counting on more voters showing up before the polls closed.
Odabashian said she and Town Administrator Denis Fraine typically try to guess the turnout for an election with Odabashian taking the higher prediction and Fraine the lower.
“I said it would be between 1,200 and 1,400 votes and Denis said it would be under 1,200,” she said. Odabashian said she was confident her prediction would be the correct one.

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