EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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November 4, 2013

Voting rolls up, absentee ballots down in Lawrence

LAWRENCE — Just over 700 voters cast absentee ballots by yesterday’s deadline, down 8 percent compared to the last time the city elected a mayor in 2009, the city’s Election Division reported yesterday.

The 711 absentee ballots will be sealed until they are delivered to the city’s 24 voting places and fed into scanners today, so whether absentee voters favored Lantigua or challenger Daniel Rivera won’t be known. But piling up absentee ballots from residents who can’t get to the polls today is a key part of both candidates’ ground game.

The drop in absentee voters occurred even as the total number of voters registered for today’s election increased — also by 8 percent — compared to four years ago, when Lantigua was first elected mayor.

In all, 37,672 people — equal to about 71 percent of residents over 18 years old — are registered to vote in today’s election, up from 34,879 four years ago. The increase occurred even as the city purged the names of several thousand inactive voters from the rolls.

Josephine Merolla, a retired special education administrator who is living temporarily at The Meadows, a local rehabilitation facility and nursing home, said she voted for Rivera when she mailed in her ballot several weeks ago.

“He went to school here,” Merolla, 83, said about Rivera, who is City Council president. “He went to college here. He was in the service here. He’s done community work here. He’s got the background.”

“He’s a very good man,” said Mary Young, 88, who also voted for Rivera by absentee ballot. “He’s educated. He’s done a lot of good volunteer stuff on the side. He has a nice wife. We deserve someone like him.”

Beato Gonzales and Filberto Peralta cast absentee ballot at the Election Division in the basement of City Hall yesterday, when they made the noon deadline by minutes and were the last of the 711 absentee voters to vote.

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