EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 12, 2012

Clerks busy as voter registration deadline looms

By Brian Messenger bmessenger@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Area city and town clerk offices are buzzing with activity as Wednesday’s voter registration deadline draws closer.

Hundreds of Merrimack Valley residents are expected to register to vote before the statewide deadline of Wednesday at 8 p.m., and clerks offices across Massachusetts will be open late that night to accommodate them.

Clerks are also sending out dozens of absentee ballots to voters every day in anticipation of the Nov. 6 election.

“We’ve been extremely busy with voter registration and absentee balloting,” said Andover Town Clerk Larry Murphy. “We got busy for the gubernatorial election in 2010, but nothing like this.”

Murphy said 608 Andover residents have registered to vote since mid-August. Since the Sept. 6 primary election, 1,300 Lawrence residents have registered to vote along with 809 voters in Haverhill, 742 in Methuen and 688 in North Andover.

Haverhill City Clerk Margaret Toomey expects 300 more city residents will register before the Wednesday deadline.

“I expect a lot, at the rate they’re coming in,” said Toomey.

Massachusetts residents can register to vote at any city or town clerk’s office in the state. Mail-in registration forms are also available online on the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website and must be postmarked by Wednesday, Oct. 17.

The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is noon the day before the election. To vote using an absentee ballot, residents must expect to be absent from their city or town during election day, or have a physical disability or religious belief that will prevent them from voting at their polling place.

North Andover has already sent out 1,125 absentee ballots and Andover 906. Both Murphy and North Andover Town Clerk Joyce Bradshaw expect their offices will each send out around 1,000 absentee ballots before the election.

Haverhill has sent 762 absentee ballots to voters. Methuen has sent 671 and Lawrence 400.

“They’re pouring in,” said Methuen City Clerk Christine Touma-Conway. “We must be getting roughly 30 a day.”

“We are very busy,” Lawrence Coordinator Rafael Tejeda said of the absentee ballots. “Every single day — 40 or 50.”

Nationwide, a robust registration push by President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign has resulted in more Democrats than Republicans on the voter rolls in most battleground states, including Florida and Nevada, according to data from state election boards.

But Republicans have had their own registration success, narrowing the Democratic voter advantage since 2008 in many of the battlegrounds, including Iowa. And party officials say they have put more resources into persuading independent voters who are already registered to cast their ballots for party nominee Mitt Romney.

“We do not put as big an emphasis on voter registration programs as we do in talking to and persuading independents,” said Rick Wiley, political director for the Republican National Committee. “I would prefer to go in and talk to an independent who is already registered. They have a voter history.”

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said his campaign “can do both things — both persuade the undecideds and get out our voters.”

The Democratic campaign also says a deeper look at the registration numbers shows an uptick in new Hispanic voters and voters under the age of 30 — voting blocs where the president has an advantage.

Since August, the campaign says about half of new registrants in most battleground states have been under the age of 30. Hispanic registration is also up this year in every key electoral state except Ohio.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

MERRIMACK VALLEY VOTERS

Community Population Registered Voters Percent

Lawrence 76,377 39,603 52%

Haverhill 60,879 42,152 69%

Methuen 47,255 30,387 64%

Andover 33,201 23,241 70%

N. Andover 30,120 18,764 62%

Total 247,832 154,147 62%