Huge turnout reported across Island

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Updated 7 pm

Election Day 2020 is here and voters today will decide between a second term for President Donald Trump or a first term for Democratic challenger Joe Biden. 

Polls opened across the Island at 7 am this morning. Polls close at 8 pm.

In Edgartown Tuesday evening, the polls were quiet. Constable Will Bishop, who is also an Edgartown police officer, said there was a lot of early voting so Tuesday was steady, but there was no overwhelming stream of voters. As of 5 pm more than 700 Edgartown voters had cast their ballots.

Tegan Fenner of Chilmark stood outside the Edgartown Stop & Shop to wave a large Trump flag. While he got some honks of support as cars drove by, Fenner also said there were some expletives hurled his way from passersby. He added that people should vote for who they want and everyone has the right to their own opinion.

“If you have another opinion, do you,” Fenner said. “You have your rights, I just want to keep mine.”

Over in Oak Bluffs, town clerk Colleen Morris said that mail-in voting allowed many people to cast votes early, therefore voting on Election Day has been steady all day. As of 6:15 pm, 673 people had voted in person and Oak Bluffs.

In 2016, Oak Bluffs had a 77% voter turnout, this year Morris said she’s aiming for 80%.

An Oak Bluffs fire and EMS truck was on the scene to provide extra lighting for people walking to the polling station. Morris said the lights outside of the library we’re not working properly, but the fire and EMS we’re happy to help out.

Oak Bluffs had one machine issue earlier in the day. The machine that was counting both mail-in and in-person votes was acting “quirky.” Fortunately, Morris got some help from the West Tisbury town clerk Tara Whiting who loaned her a tabulator machine that has been working smoothly all day.

“She gets a gold star for today,“ said Morris. “She’s my caped crusader of tabulators.”

In Tisbury, 74% of registered voters had either done early voting, mailed-in ballots, or went to the polls Tuesday. At 7 pm, there was a trickle of voters going in and out of the polling site at the Emergency Services Facility.

During the middle of the day, Chilmark saw a trickle of voters come in and out of the polling station. Excitement for Election Day to have finally arrived and anguish over results were recurring feelings among voters. 

Some timid optimism was also expressed by voters. Dwight Gardner, who voted for the first time Tuesday, was glad to cast his ballot. “We need to make our voice be heard. Hopefully it will do some good for the country, because we need that right now.” 

Shelagh Hackett said she was “scared and hesitantly hopeful” about the election. “This year is super scary and I’m really glad the day is here so that we can at least find out because the anxiety is huge,” she said. 

Hackett also expressed frustration about the electoral college but insisted that voting remained important. 

“Everyone needs to vote. I’m really glad I voted today. Sometimes it’s frustrating to think that you might vote and it won’t make any difference anyway. But I feel that it is really important to go and put your X in the square and just say what you want.” 

Solon Oliver, who also voted for the first time today, said that the whole voting process “went pretty smoothly.” His mother Elizabeth Oliver was excited to see her son voting for the first time, but also harbored fears about the election.

“I’m a little anxious to hear how it is all going to turn out because it’s been kind of heavy lately,” Elizabeth Oliver said. “We’re hoping for the best.”

At the Edgartown polls around lunch time, voters came and went intermittently, and all said the process inside the town hall was seamless and orderly.

Edgartown board of health assistant Janet Anthony said voting is especially important this year because there is “so much that people are questioning on all sides that you really need to vote and make your voice heard.”

She added that the pandemic has highlighted the importance of both the federal and local government, and how they are run.

Anthony said she voted by mail and dropped her ballot at the town hall in Oak Bluffs where she now lives, and the entire process was quick and efficient.

She said folks who vote by mail don’t need to worry about potentially exposing themselves to COVID, especially if they have a comorbidity, and added that mail-in voting takes stress off the staff at polling stations. 

“There’s no pressure, there’s not as much worrying about who is standing in line near me,” Anthony said. 

Joseph Frawley said he thought voting in-person was “seamless and professionally run,” and said the town hall is taking all the necessary precautions to be safe. 

Frawley stressed that with the extreme divisiveness our country is seeing, voting is more important than ever. 

Seasonal resident Deborah Reaves said she is “very anxious” about this year’s election, and is concerned with the direction the country is headed in. 

“I am hoping for a change in office this year,” she said. 

She continued to say that voting is especially important this year because there are many issues that directly affect civil rights and reproductive rights hanging in the balance. 

At West Tisbury, fire apparatus was moved out of the Public Safety Complex to allow for voting.

Cynthia Mitchell, the town’s chair of the board of selectmen, was at the polls early to vote.

Even with brisk early voting and mail-in ballots, the parking lot at the West Tisbury polling site was almost full.

In Tisbury at around 8:15 am, there were three people waiting outside the Emergency Services Facility to vote. Later in the morning in Oak Bluffs it was quiet.

On Tuesday afternoon at the Tisbury polls, folks entered through the rear doors and were carefully streamed out the front entrance after voting. 

Michael Scott Cassiani said he thinks it’s important for everyone to vote, no matter their political ideologies. “I am a conservative in Massachusetts, so my vote doesn’t always carry as much weight, but it is so important for me to come and exercise my constitutional right and show the world that people everywhere have different views,” Cassiani said. “I just wish we could all get along. Nobody thinks alike, everyone has a different opinion, and that is what America is about.”

And Michael’s son, Matt, said “people should respect each other’s views, no matter what they are.”

Both Michael and Matt said they wanted to come and vote in-person this year, not because they expect voter fraud, but because it’s a more direct process and they do not have to worry about the mailing system on-Island.

David Dutton said voting is important every year, and folks should celebrate their rights and make their voices heard, no matter who they vote for or who wins. 

Renee Dutton, a teacher at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, said she just had a mock election in her classroom. She said the kids created two make-believe candidates (both females), and they wrote speeches on what they all cared about. 

She stressed that those types of exercises are important to start at an early age in order to establish a well-informed populace.

Artist Darcie Lee Hanaway, who voted in Oak Bluffs, said, “I think voting is a really important way to bridge the gap of change that is much needed in our country.” She went on to say, “I hope, I hope, I hope for Biden.”

Oak Bluffs resident Asa Vought, a plumber, said he supported keeping the county treasurer position elected. He said he voted against ranked choice voting and he voted in favor of independent mechanics on Question 1.

“Why should a guy I’m going to through the years lose his job because the big companies don’t want him to have it?” he asked.

Diane Whittier, who voted early, came to the Oak Bluffs polls to hand out cookies.

“I tried to give them to the poll workers but they’re not allowed to take anything that’s not all prepackaged,” she said. Ashed if she had an election prediction, Whittier said,

“I hope it’s a blue wave.”

Mallory Butler, a member of Aquinnah’s board of registrrars got to town hall a little before 4pm for a shift that she expected will go until 10 pm. She was joined by her daughter Nina, who she described as an assistant registrar.

Mallory Butler said of the approximately 350 registered voters in Aquinnah, early voting was “very substantial.” She said more counters than usual are on hand “because we really anticipated a huge amount of turnout for voters in Gay Head for this election…I think we are having five teams of counters — that’s a reader and a counter — that would work out to maybe 50 or 60 votes per person.” By 10 pm she expects the tally to be done absent “any sort of strange thing happening.”

Speaking personally and not in the capacity of her appointed role, Butler said, “I’m in agreement with the right to repair” and “I opposed the rank choice voting.”

She went on to say she believed the county treasurer should be elected.

While the presidential race between Trump and Biden is dominating the headlines, there are other issues on the ballot for Island voters to consider.

State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, and state Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, are unopposed on the ballot, but U.S. Rep. Bill Keating, D-Bourne, faces challenges by Republican Helen Brady and Coach Team America candidate Michael Manley.

U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., is facing a challenge by Republican Kevin O’Connor.

There is a three-way race for the Tisbury representative on the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. Incumbents Clarence (“Trip”) Barnes and Josh Goldstein face a challenge from Ben Robinson, who has been an appointed member of the MVC for the town.

Along with the two statewide ballot questions — the expanded right to repair, and ranked-choice voting — there’s a county ballot question asking voters to switch the county treasurer’s position from elected to appointed. Don’t forget to flip over your ballot to cast your vote on the questions.

Islanders will see a beefed up police presence at the polls, though police chiefs on the Island said they don’t expect there to be any disruptions of the electoral process.

We’ll be updating this post throughout the day. Please check back tonight after the polls close at 8 pm for results as they become available.