Wanda Rivera, an elections warden at the District E-4 precinct on Salem Street in Lawrence, sat on a bench outside the polling place yesterday, soaking in some rays.
"It's going to be a long day," she said. Inside, precinct clerk Julio Tejeda was speaking with a voter - one of just 42 who had cast a ballot as of 10:30 a.m. today. Tejeda predicted about 100 people would vote in the precinct today.
"We'll probably get 7 to 8 percent turnout," he said.
Across the Merrimack Valley, elections officials spoke of a dismal turnout for the primary election, with just 3 percent voting in North Andover as of noon.
Things were a little better in Andover, where 3.6 percent of active voters had cast ballots by 9 a.m., according to Town Clerk Lawrence Murphy. He said he hoped for a 15 percent turnout by the end of the day.
"Unfortunately, this is very typical of a primary," Murphy said, adding, however, that the last primary saw a turnout of 29 percent, while one in 2006 had just 11 percent.
He was more optimistic about the general election in November, when he thinks the town may hit the 90 percent turnout mark because of the interest in the presidential and U.S. Senate races.
In Haverhill, just 36 ballots were cast by 9 a.m. at Ward 4, Precinct 2 located in the Hartleb Technology Center at Northern Essex Community College.
"I'm not surprised at the turnout as it's a Thursday, opposed to the normal Tuesday voting day, and it's a primary," Warden Ron Sarofian said. "Normally, during a big election, the line at the Second Baptist Church was out the door. But, we do expect it to pick up later in the day."
Other precincts reported similar results.
At the Diamond Spring Gardens polling place in Lawrence, usually one of the top voting districts in the city, just 71 people had voted by 10:30 a.m., or about 1 percent of the active voters for District E-1.
"People don't know it's happening or they don't bother with voting because they don't think it's important," said Marilyn Mercier, the district warden.
In Methuen, about 600 people had voted at the Tenney School on Pleasant Street, where voters from precincts 3, 7, 9 and 12 cast their ballots.
That was considered low even for a primary, said one of the precinct wardens.
But voters, and some candidates, remained upbeat and enthusiastic.
"I voted Republican and I voted for (Jon) Golnik," said Reynold Martin, 65, of Dunbarton Street, Andover. Republicans Jonathan Golnik of Carlisle and Thomas Weaver of Westford are running for the right to face Democrat Rep. Niki Tsongas of Lowell, who is unopposed in the primary.
"I also voted for Vispoli," he said, referring to Andover Republican Alex Vispoli who is in a primary race against state Rep. Paul Adams (R-Andover) for a chance to challenge Sen. Barry Finegold (D-Andover), in the November election.
"Alex was a selectman here for years and did a good job," Martin said. "But Adams would do a good job, too."
Lilian Menihane, 76, who lives in Methuen's East End, said she voted in the Republican primary because she wanted to cast a ballot for Scott Brown for U.S. Senate, even though he doesn't have a primary opponent.
"I love him," she said. "It's his whole attitude and what he's going to do for us. He's a good man."
She said she voted for Shaun Toohey of Haverhill, who is locked in a primary fight with Sam Meas, also of Haverhill, for the Republican nomination for the First Essex District state senate seat formerly occupied by Steve Baddour.
Democrats in that senate race are former Methuen Mayor William Manzi, Timothy Coco of Haverhill and Kathleen Ives of Newburyport.
Charles Russek, 82, of Cox Lane in Methuen, said he voted for Ives.
"She was very nice," he said. "I was interviewed by her at the Senior Center. She has a lot of pizzazz."
He said he also voted for Methuen's Diana DiZoglio, who is running in the Democratic primary against incumbent state Rep. David Torrisi of North Andover.
Meanwhile, in North Andover, voters came out to cast ballots for, and against, candidates.
"I voted for Dave Torrisi," said Phil Pelletier, 71, of East Water St. "He's a townie. He's a good guy. I know his father over at Jackson Lumber, and I knew his grandfather way back."
But Larry Buote, 71, of Johnson St., said he voted for Torrisi's opponent, DiZoglio.
"I voted against Torrisi," he said. "She came to my home and made her case. When Torrisi started, I agreed with him. Now, he's just part of the establishment."
Some candidates waiting at the entrance to Andover High School, said they felt that turnout was low, but the important thing was "who" was voting.
"It's about people turning out to vote," said Vispoli, as he held a sign and waved at voters as they drove in. "A big turnout of your people helps."
He said his volunteers have been phone-banking since yesterday.
Paul Adams, standing nearby, agreed.
"It's all about getting your supporters out," he said.
Back in Haverhill, at the Public Library auditorium, Ward 3, Precinct 2, Warden Herb Bergh counted just 61 ballots cast as of 11:45 a.m.
"Typically, primaries are slow, but this is probably slower than most," Bergh said. "We may hit 15 percent, but I'm guessing we'll have a 12 percent turnout unless things pick up."
"It appears that not a lot of people are interested in voting today, even though we have a local senate race," Bergh added.
Poll worker Roger Lemire waited and waited for voters to arrive.
"If it was any slower we'd be going backwards," Lemire said.
At Groveland Town Hall, business was brisk with Precint 1 tallying 75 ballots cast and Precent 2 counting 72 by 10:30 a.m.
Town Clerk Anne Brodie said she expects 300 to 350 voters to show up today to vote, out of the 4,200 who are registered.
"I think we're going to surpass my estimates for the day," Brodie said. "Typically, for primaries we have about a 25 percent turnout. It might go above 15 percent today."
Brodie said that prior to today, she saw few signs of interest in this primary.
"People weren't coming in to see specimen ballots to see who was running," she said.
Haverhill reporter Mike Labella contributed to this story.