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By James Ensor
Hometown Weekly Reporter
Thursday, September 8 saw primary elections take place across the state of Massachusetts. The results of these elections will decide whose names are on the ballot for the major parties in the November general elections. Positions ranged from our representatives in Congress to the local Sheriff, and many statewide offices in between. Across our communities, volunteers took time out of their days to make the democratic process possible.
At the Dover Town House, in the upper hall, town clerk Felicia Hoffman oversaw election operations with a small group of volunteers. All of the races in Dover were uncontested primaries, with only one name on the ballot along with an open line for write-in votes. “The uncontested races caused a low turnout here,” said Hoffman. “We are using the old Accuvote ballot counting machines because we know them well. Since we only have one precinct, I err on the side of caution.”
It was a similar scene at one of the Westwood polling stations, the Paul Hanlon School at 790 Gay St. The Warden at this station, Joe Gearon, said, “the process is going smoothly, but slowly. We were told to expect 10% of voters, but I’d be surprised if we get that.” At noon, only 100 voters had turned out. There were, however, some innovations to speak of. A new Auto Mark machine for handicapped voters had been installed, as well as red, white and blue voting booths. The Westwood polling station also featured more advanced ballot counting machines that were also being used in Walpole.
Blackburn Hall in Walpole, next to the public library, was home to another polling station on Thursday. Town Clerk Danielle Sicard was there in the morning with a filming crew, making a Voter Education video on the new ImageCast ballot boxes, which were also in use in Westwood. The new technology came with a representative from the company that sells them, LHS Associates, who oversaw the first use of the machines in Walpole. Another new piece of technological assistance was also in use - Poll-Pads, also provided by LHS, were iPads loaded with information such as voter registration and what precinct they were registered in.
Walpole Super-Warden Janice A. Young was there at Blackburn Hall to oversee the day of polling. “There won’t be enough turnout today to experience any issues with the new machines. So far they are running just fine,” said Young. As of noon, less than one hundred voters had visited this polling station. Janice has been working the polls for over forty years, and is very happy with the new ballot counting machines, as the old ones were beginning to jam regularly.
“It’s an all-day job,” said Young, “But I’ve always taken a day off to do it because it’s the democratic process which is most important. We have a choice here in America, and voting is a duty and a privilege.”
The Center in Medfield, across from the Kingsbury Club, was a polling station where some voters went above and beyond their duty. Garland Hunt, a Medfield resident, could be seen holding signs campaigning for Congressman Joe Kennedy at the legal distance from the polls. Todd Smola, a state representative from Warren, Massachusetts, as well as Tim Hughes from Norfolk, joined him. Those two were campaigning for Shawn Dooley, a Republican state representative who was trying to get on the ballot as a Democrat as well, which would virtually guarantee him reelection. Smola described Dooley as “a good legislator and a good man. He’s a colleague and a friend.”
Across all the area’s towns, volunteers made the entire process possible. Town clerks, wardens and polling station volunteers ensured every vote was counted, while the politically dedicated made sure their chosen candidates’ messages were heard loud and clear. This primary election, although the turnout was low, will serve as a valuable trial run for the election process in November.