Record turnouts, happy voters
A joyful sense of helping to make history suffused Island polls on Tuesday, as more than 10,000 registered voters made their choices for president, Congress, and a host of state and local offices. In a tour of down-Island polling locations Tuesday morning, it was clear that the Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama motivated much of the overwhelming turnout.
In Tisbury, there were 36 voters in line before the polls opened at 7 am, dressed in light jackets and even shorts in unseasonably warm weather. Similar early bird voter lines were reported elsewhere on Martha's Vineyard. Though a few ballots remain to be counted, early figures indicate approximately 87 percent of Tisbury's voters went to the polls, a record. Chilmark, Oak Bluffs, and West Tisbury also reported turnouts above 80 percent. Though some voters had waited in short lines throughout the day, no significant glitches in voting were reported.
Town clerks were busy dealing with a new state law that allows people to vote as long as 18 months after they have moved to another Massachusetts town, if they have not registered at their new address. The law made it difficult for some town clerks to verify old voter registrations. The previous time limit was six months.
Photo by Steve Myrick
Martha's Vineyard followed a national trend of lengthening election "day" into a week or more. Several town clerks across Martha's Vineyard said they received more than twice the number of absentee ballots they got in the 2004 presidential election. In Oak Bluffs, nearly 20 percent of those who voted cast absentee ballots.
One Tisbury voter went to extraordinary lengths to play his part in democracy. Tisbury town clerk Marion Mudge said the young voter came to her office at the beginning of October requesting an absentee ballot. She told him the ballots hadn't arrived, but she would arrange to ship one to him. It turned out that he expected to be working on a merchant ship off the coast of Cameroon during the election. He found that the only company that would guarantee delivery of the ballot was DHL, at a cost of $132.27. He brought Ms. Mudge a pre-paid, pre-addressed envelope, and she shipped the ballot to him.
"Now that's a dedicated voter," said Ms. Mudge. She said he confirmed by e-mail that he received the shipment, but she has not yet received the completed ballot. He has until November 14 to return his ballot and have it officially counted.
Absentee ballots were sent to Island residents, former residents, and voting age children of residents in France, Great Britain, Israel, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Scotland, and even the South Pole.