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AMERICA VOTES: On a cold Nov. 3, voters line up to do their duty

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Live turnout went as expected Tuesday, with voters streaming into the polls bundled up for unseasonably cold weather, despite the pandemic and many options to submit ballots early.

Across the Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire, lines started forming early, hours before polls even opened.

Masked Methuen residents stood outside the Tenney School, socially distanced in a formation that wrapped around the parking lot.

“Things are going well,” precinct warden Marie Messina said a little after 7 a.m. “I‘d say we’ve had 100 people in the first 10 minutes.”

Even before daybreak at Derry’s Pinkerton Academy voters assembled outside the gymnasium. The town encouraged them to wear masks, but also set up a heated tent outside for those who chose not to.

"Polling places are prepared," Town Moderator Tina Guilford said.

In Andover, 72% of voters cast ballots by noon, Town Clerk Austin Simko said.

About 15,000 votes were cast early, according to Simko, still there was a steady stream of people at all of the in-person locations.

“It’s a huge turnout and we have eight hours to go,” Simko said at noon.

Longtime Windham Selectman Roger Hohenberger said in his 21 years serving on the board he hadn't seen a turnout like this.

"It's phenomenal," he said. "It's the most I've seen, and it's great to see people exercise their right to vote. And it's been very, very civil."

Plaistow Town Moderator Robert Harb said early traffic was heavy there, too.

“The difficulty with the polls is for us to maintain four separate lines to keep people a safe distance for COVID protection,” he said.

Voters who shared opinions were most adamant about their stances.

In Salem, New Hampshire, outside the Barron School, John Mosto, 71, carried signs.

“I think Donald Trump is a danger to our democracy and that if he wins the election the United States will never be the same again,” he said.

Patricia Polito, 52, a Salem resident who works as a traveling sales representative, was reluctant, but revealed she voted for Biden.

“My main interest is health care,” she said.

Josiah Morrow, 19, of Haverhill, was voting in his first presidential election. The freshman at Merrimack College cast his ballot at the public library before heading to the corner of Salem and Montvale streets to stump for Biden.

"I think that this year, it's really about a return to normalcy. It's about trying to get back to common decency and core American values above all else," Morrow said.

Plaistow Republican Vanessa Halliday, 26, a wedding photographer, said she voted for Trump and along her party’s ticket in New Hampshire.

“I think that he's been doing a pretty good job,” she said of the president.

Derry resident Rebecca Sanborn voted absentee but still honored the day Tuesday at Pinkerton Academy, wearing her Ruth Bader Ginsburg distressed collar earrings and a red-white-and-blue outfit.

"This election, I was hesitant to vote in person due to COVID, but there was no way I was missing out on making my voice heard, so I voted absentee," Sanborn said.

The changed landscape among poll workers was evident as younger people became involved, relieving those at higher risk for the coronavirus.

"It was a great experience to see how elections are run and how ballots are counted," said Julianne Stein, 21, of Andover, who was among the youngest poll workers in town.

Reporters Bill Kirk, Mike Labella, Genevieve DiNatale, Julie Huss, Allison Corneau and Madeline Hughes contributed to this story.

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