EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 16, 2010

Absentee voters flood clerks' offices

Big interest in special Senate race

City and town clerks were inundated yesterday by people casting absentee ballots in advance of Tuesday's special U.S. Senate election.

"Buried" is how Methuen City Clerk Christine Touma-Conway described it.

The Democrats and Republicans unleashed an advertising blitz this week, while the national media turned its attention to what polls are showing to be a neck-and-neck race between Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Scott Brown.

Applications for absentee ballots are usually available until 5 p.m. the day before elections, but municipal offices are closed Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, so the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot was 5 p.m. yesterday. Absentee ballots have to be cast by the time polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Secretary of State William Galvin ran an advertisement on television alerting people to yesterday's deadline.

"That uptick (in requests for absentee ballots) seems to be right in line with this advertisement that the secretary of the Commonwealth is doing and the tightening of the polls," Touma-Conway said.

Many people who got absentee ballots voted at their city or town clerk's office yesterday, and gave varying reasons for doing so.

"Semester starts Tuesday," said Bart Antista, 21, a UMass Amherst student from Methuen.

"I work out of state," said Michelle Leone of Methuen.

"I'm actually going on a trip," said 23-year-old Christopher Amoroso of Methuen, who is heading to Baltimore for an Edgar Allen Poe birthday celebration.

"I'm going to be in Vegas next week," said Wayne Demers of Methuen.

The Methuen clerk's office processed 40 applications for absentee ballots between 8 a.m. and noon yesterday, Touma-Conway said.

Andover was busier.

"I bet we've done, already, 150 today. Maybe even more than that," said Town Clerk Randy Hanson.

"It has been off the wall," said Joyce Bradshaw, the town clerk in North Andover, where more than 50 people voted in person with absentee ballots yesterday morning.

Haverhill City Clerk Peggy Toomey said absentee voting in her city was "non-stop," while Raphael Tejada, Lawrence's bilingual elections coordinator, said things were normal — 15 to 20 votes cast — in Lawrence yesterday.

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