Biden with decisive win on Martha’s Vineyard

Barnes and Robinson win two Tisbury seats on MVC.

Voters line up outside Edgartown Town Hall. - Rich Saltzberg

Updated Nov. 4

The votes are in, and while the Island’s votes are counted, there are still votes to be tallied in other parts of the country, leaving no presidential winner declared.

On Martha’s Vineyard, there was a huge turnout, from 74 percent in Tisbury to a whopping 87 percent in Chilmark. With the ongoing pandemic, it was a different type of election on-Island. Voters showed up wearing masks to polling places where voting booths were socially distanced and hand sanitizer was plentiful. With two-thirds of voters either voting early over a two-week period or by mail ballot in most towns, there were no lines or waits at the polls. In West Tisbury, there were no voters for the last 15 minutes of the night before polls closed at 8 pm.

The Democratic ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had a decisive victory over President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, with an 80 percent to 19 percent spread, a wider spread than the 66 percent to 33 percent reported statewide.

Early Wednesday morning, Trump declared victory, which has been described as premature with several so-called battleground states — Pennsylvania and Michigan, among them — up for grabs, and election officials in those states reportedly unable to process all the votes until sometime Friday.

“There is no surprise that the count is ongoing the day after the election. As presidential historians have pointed out, few recent elections have ended the night of Election Day,” Jack Fruchtman, a retired constitutional professor and seasonal Aquinnah resident, told The Times. “Most states count ballots from in-person voting first, and then the mail-in and absentee ballots.  With so many voting this year, it is no wonder that it will take time. Charges of voter fraud and threats to go to the Supreme Court only damage Americans’ faith in their democracy.”

In a contested race for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s two Tisbury seats, incumbent Clarence (“Trip”) Barnes III and former Tisbury select board appointee Ben Robinson beat out incumbent Josh Goldstein.

Barnes was the top vote getter of all commissioners, and held on to his elected seat. Goldstein narrowly beat out Robinson in the down-Island vote by 12 votes, but support from Robinson’s hometown of Tisbury and the three up-Island towns bolstered Robinson’s total, giving him the final win over Goldstein by 62 votes.

There were nine spots to fill on the commission and nine names on the ballot, but due to commission rules, a maximum of only two candidates from one town can be elected to the commission.

Robinson said his victory spoke to the Island’s desire for a focus on climate change issues, which Robinson has championed in his time on both the commission and the Tisbury planning board. “It was a good turnout. I feel like I can keep moving forward on climate work,” Robinson said. “There’s so much work to be done on the climate. I’m glad I can keep doing it, and I’m glad there’s a ton of people on the Island doing it with me.”

After eight years serving on the commission, Goldstein said he was at peace with the results.

“The town and the Island are both incredibly well represented by Ben and Trip. I think that Ben and I share a lot of the same values and goals. We just have different ways that we want to get there,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein expressed his pride in serving on the commission and overseeing big projects such as the Barn Bowl & Bistro in Oak Bluffs. The Tisbury select board–appointed position is now open, but Goldstein said he has not asked about the position, nor has he been offered it. 

“Like everyone else, I’m letting the dust settle on the national election,” Goldstein said. “I will absolutely finish out my term with vigor and honor, and when it comes time for appointment, if the selectmen are interested, I’m sure they’ll reach out.”

Re-elected to the commission were Fred Hancock of Oak Bluffs, Christina Brown of Edgartown, Douglas Sederholm and Linda Sibley of West Tisbury, and Jim Vercruysse of Aquinnah. Newcomer Jeff Agnoli was also elected to the commission, coming in fourth in overall voting.

Jay Grossman appears to have won a seat on the commission, with a write-in campaign that got him 47 votes.

The local question, Question 3, which sought to change the county treasurer’s position from elected to appointed, was defeated overwhelmingly with 6,294 no votes to 5,211 yes votes. County commissioners had lobbied hard to have the treasurer’s position become appointed.

Commissioner Christine Todd said she is “very pleased” with the number of votes in support of changing the position to an appointed one. But she said educating people about the importance of the job is a process, and the way people vote has a lot to do with what they know about the question.

‘We probably could have done a better job at advocating for this change, and educating people about what the position entails, and what it would mean if someone were appointed instead of elected,” Todd said.

She noted that the county budget has grown over the years, and so have the responsibilities involved with the treasurer job. 

“That position has become much more significant,” Todd said. “When you have someone who is managing $10 million in taxpayer money, you have to be very confident that person has the ability and the experience to do so effectively.”

Former county treasurer Noreen Mavro-Flanders said she is happy that voters understand “the needs for checks and balances in county government.”

She said if the position were to be appointed, “there would basically be only one through-process, and it would be the way the county wanted it.”

Mavro-Flanders continued to say that an appointed treasurer position would not affect just the county — it would affect the retirement system, and to some extent the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank finances, because of enabling legislation that ties it to the county. “Whoever holds that position should not have any outside influence,” she said.

The Island towns were solidly behind Question 1, the so-called expanded right to repair, and also supported Question 2, which is ranked-choice voting, with less enthusiasm. Question 1 was approved overwhelmingly statewide, but ranked-choice voting was defeated.
In the race for Congress, U.S. Rep. Bill Keating defeated his Republican competitor Helen Brady three-to-one on the Vineyard. A third candidate, Michael Manley, garnered just 155 votes. The Associated Press called the race for the 9th Congressional District for Keating. In the Senate race, Edward Markey defeated Republican challenger Kevin O’Connor on the Island and statewide. On the Island, Markey won 9,604 to 2,754.

All of the towns had a large turnout of voters, with Chilmark, Aquinnah, and West Tisbury leading the pack with 87 percent, 86 percent, and 83 percent of voters casting ballots. Oak Bluffs had a 78 percent turnout, and both Tisbury and Edgartown had 74 percent of their registered voters combined.

State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, and state Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, ran unopposed for re-election, as did register of probate Daphne Devries and county treasurer Ann Metcalf. The full slate of county commissioner candidates were elected to office.

Updated to add comments from Robinson and Goldstein.

AquinnahChilmarkEdgartownOak BluffsTisburyWest TisburyTotals
US Senator0
Edward Markey31177921122374214818809604
Kevin O'Connor44125929
US Representative
Bill Keating31177721742389214118859677
Helen Brady261147966554873122390
Michael Manley51242403323155
MVC (contested)
Clarence Barnes III22258618311874171113037527
Josh Goldstein17852913661341141711185949
Ben Robinson20057712961336145011526011
Question 1 (Auto)
Question 2 (Ranked choice)
Question 3 (County treasurer)
Editor's note: Totals are unofficial results as of Tuesday night/Wednesday morning