HAVERHILL — With the addition of 5,000 newly registered voters since January and a high level of excitement about voting in general, Mayor James Fiorentini is predicting a record number of votes will be cast in Haverhill when Election Day is over.
"I'm guessing 80 to 85 percent of registered voters in the city will have cast ballots," the mayor said shortly after visiting several polling locations in the city Tuesday morning.
City Clerk Linda Koutoulas said early voting and mail-in ballots have totaled about 36 percent of all registered voters Haverhill. She said she won't know the total percentage of voters who cast ballots in the election until Tuesday night after polls close.
"Early voting didn't make much difference in the past, but it definitely will this time," she said, noting the city has about 48,000 registered voters.
Herb Bergh, warden of Ward 3 Precinct 1 at the public library, said there was a flurry of voting early Tuesday morning and then it level out to a steady stream of voters.
"Voting in person seems lower than in 2016, which has to do with early voting and voting by mail," he said.
Bergh said five people showed up carrying mail-in ballots and asked to vote in person instead. He said they were logged into the system to show they voted and that most of them ripped up their mail-in ballots and placed them in a trash container.
"We get a lot of senior citizens from Merrivista and 1 Water Street,'' Bergh said of voters from senior citizens housing complexes who usually cast ballots at the library, "and I think a lot of them voted early.''
Bergh and his poll workers set up about half the usual amount of voting booths to provide social distancing. They put in place a variety of other precautions, including workers and voters having to wear masks, providing voters with sanitized pens, and disinfecting all surfaces touched by voters, especially booths where they marked their ballots.
"We wanted our workers to feel safe," he said about precautions taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
At the Haverhill High School gymnasium, which houses two polling places — Ward 1 Precinct 4 and Ward 6 Precinct 1 — a steady but not overwhelming stream of voters kept poll workers busy.
"We had a lot of early ballots come through as voters are being intelligently cautious," said Joyce Thibodeau, warden of Ward 1 Precinct 3. "We had a small line when we opened but since then it's been comfortably steady."
Watch eagletribune.com and print editions of The Eagle-Tribune for continuing coverage of the election.