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November 5, 2012

Clerks: Inactive voters likely to slow some polls

There are more than 32,000 in Haverhill and Lawrence; they must show ID, sign affidavit to vote

Intense voter interest might not be the only factor in long lines at the polls tomorrow.

More than 32,000 registered voters in Haverhill and Lawrence face the prospect of having to show picture identification and sign an affidavit listing their address before they will be allowed to vote in tomorrow’s presidential election — a time-consuming and potentially troublesome process when combined with expected high turnouts, local officials said.

The voters in question have been placed on the inactive voter list for failing to return local census information mailed by cities and towns in January or February. Voters on the inactive list can still vote, but they must first show ID and fill out a form listing their address. Those without ID are given provisional ballots that may be counted later, especially in close races.

In Haverhill, there were 15,461 inactive voters as of Oct. 17 — the last day to register to vote and get back on the active list — down from around 18,000 three weeks ago when city officials began a publicity effort to get voters back on the active list before Election Day.

“Hundreds of people have called, come to the office and sent in the forms to get back on the active list,” Haverhill City Clerk Margaret Toomey said Friday.

Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini said the backlog of inactive voters could still pose problems.

“I’m going to try to put extra people on Election Day,” Fiorentini said. “We’re going to try to accommodate them. But we see this as a major problem coming up.”

Local and state officials are predicting high voter turnout across the state for the presidential election, which features not only the critical Obama-Romney contest and several key local and congressional races, but also several lengthy ballot questions.

To try to speed the voting proces, Toomey said Haverhill will set up special “Inactive Voter Check-In” tables at every poll with the name of every voter on the inactive list in that precinct.

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