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By Katrina Margolis
Hometown Weekly Reporter
The recent Presidential election has been one of the most heated in history. Opinions and emotions were flying high, as issues beyond just party differences were brought to the surface. The nation as a whole bubbled with anticipation as the votes rolled in, watching diligently as each state was called. But what about the local polls? Consistently a blue state, Massachusetts as a whole was faced with less overt conflict than many other locations. And in the greater Boston area, voting was actually pretty smooth.
As opposed to polling stations in some swing states, there was a noticeable lack of campaigning to be found in many towns. From the outside, one could hardly tell there was an election happening at one of Needham’s largest polling stations, the high school. This was Stephen Blomberg’s third Presidential election for which he had volunteered. “There haven’t been any Trump or Clinton signs, but I think people are so tired from the election up to this point, they just don’t have the energy anymore,” he said.
In Wellesley, some local campaigning was taking place, but even for the local elections, those with signs had to keep their distance. Je’Lesion Jones, warden, said that 2008 was significantly busier, and came with more campaigning. “This year, there have been a few people with signs, but we push them to the back to the parking lot due to the radius. People have generally been very kind today, which I think is a reflection of the nation.”
This was the first year early voting took place, which changed the dynamic of a number of the polling places. At the Wellesley Library, Jones said that nearly 40 percent of people had already voted, however, “We still have to process the ballots the day of the election. There are less people here, but it’s still very busy for us.” At the Westwood Council on Aging, by 3:00 p.m., the ballot machine was full. Judith McDonald, a Westwood elected official, explained, “We’ll empty the machine and then put the ballots in a locked box. At the end of the day they’ll go straight over to city hall.” Despite the 40 percent of Westwood locals who had already voted, McDonald said, “It’s been very steady the entire day, and there have been a few times when all of the booths are filled up.”
Dover has a unique situation since there is only one polling place in the town, situated at Town Hall. Felicia Hoffman, the Town Clerk, said this was her third Presidential election. “We’ve had a very solid turnout. There were nearly 1,300 early voters and three to four hundred absentee ballots. In total, there are 4,200 voters in town.” In addition to the Presidential election, Dover was voting on its new selectman, which added an additional level of necessary organization. “Overall, people have been great. We’ve been here to answer questions, and to help this election go smoothly, which is our job!” Hoffman said.
At the Dover Town Hall, there was some incidental campaigning. “We haven’t had any people with signs, but we have had some people come in with t-shirts or buttons and we’ve had to ask them to cover them up or remove them,” Hoffman explained. “I don’t think they realized that was considered campaigning. They didn’t seem to have a problem though, so that’s all been fine.”
Despite the perceived exhaustion the election had led to, Paul Gillis, a Hopedale resident, had traveled to stand outside of Medfield’s polls, holding a few signs for a candidate he supported. “I know it’s a very tortured season - a lot of animosity - but it’s still your right as a citizen to place your voice,” Gillis said. “I’m not against anyone. Matter of fact, I’ve been saying ‘hi’ to everybody - people who are running against us. Politics, it’s a tough game. But at the end of the day, it’s your right to support your candidate.”
Some of the greatest moments of the election were provided by parents who brought their children with them, showing them the political process in action. One example was Medfield native, Craig, who had his twin four-month-olds with him – their first ever election. “If you don’t vote, you really don’t have a voice,” Craig said. “You’ve got to pick. You may not like all your choices, but you still have an option. All you can do is your best.” Many parents left the polls handing their “I Voted” stickers to their children, excitement spreading across their faces. Despite the fact that they may not understand the importance of the sentiment behind the sticker, it will hopefully ring true when it comes their day to vote.
Despite the ever-present rhetoric regarding the polls being rigged, leading to the idea that an individual’s vote doesn’t really count, the people of Walpole felt differently. “Your vote clearly still counts. Every vote still counts, still very much counts,” Krista Spofford said. The only real ‘rigging’ in Spofford’s mind was from the voters themselves who do not participate. “They say it’s rigged. What’s really rigged is that only 20 to 40 percent of us actually showed up in the primaries. So that’s why [candidates are] not representative of 100 percent of the people, because 100 percent of the people don’t vote.”
This sentiment was mirrored by another Walpole native, Jean Augusta: “I believe in voting. I believe my vote counts, and I’m just going to voice my opinion.”
David Salvatore, Walpole Selectman said, “People are very relaxed. No animosity. There’s actually no Trump or Hillary stuff going on here - just the local stuff.”
Spofford added, “We’re very relieved that it is finally over. It’s been one heck of a year and a half. It’s just been the biggest journey, this last year and a half.”
Her relief was a sentiment felt not only in the area, but on a national scale as well.