HAVERHILL — If you didn’t return this year’s census or haven’t voted in many years, this is for you.
Local officials are concerned that a large number of Haverhill’s roughly 16,000 inactive voters will show up at the polls Nov. 6 for the high-stakes presidential election, which features not only the Obama-Romney contest but also several key local and congressional races.
Registered voters are put on the inactive list if they failed to return the city’s annual census or respond to a follow-up notice that is sent to people who don’t return the census. Inactive voters are allowed to vote, but they must first show photo identification and fill out a form that puts them back on the active list.
Mayor James Fiorentini said many inactive voters showed up to vote at last month’s primary election, at which only 5,355 of Haverhill’s 42,152 registered voters cast a ballot, or 13 percent. As many as 70 percent of those voters are expected to cast a ballot next month.
“A lot of people complained about the form and it slowed down voting,” Fiorentini said of the paperwork inactive voters must fill out at the polls.. “We’re worried about what will happen if hundreds or thousands of inactive voters show up to vote next month.”
Presidential elections are traditionally the busiest, and this year promises to be no exception. City Clerk Margaret Toomey said 27,138 Haverhill voters cast a ballot in the 2008 presidential election when Barack Obama defeated Republican Sen. John McCain.
Toomey recommended that anyone who didn’t return the most recent Haverhill census, which was mailed in January, call her office at 978-374-2312 to check their voting status.
“If you have registered to vote in the past, but you have not voted for a long time, or if you moved within Haverhill and did not register at your new address, or if you received an annual census form and did not return it, you may need to fill out a form and show identification at the polls,” reads a press release put out by the mayor’s office about the inactive voter issue.
The deadline to get put back on the active voting list in time for the presidential election is Oct. 17, which is also the last day to register to vote.
“Anyone on the inactive list can still vote,” Toomey stressed. “No one will be turned away. But they will have to show ID and fill out the form, which slows everything down. We want voting to be as fast and smooth as possible, so we are asking people who aren’t sure to verify their voting status ahead of time.”
The clerk’ office in City Hall, 4 Summer St., will remain open to 8 p.m. on Oct. 17.