Photo gallery: Local elections called ‘smooth’

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

A visitor to the polls in 10 local towns today heard the same word over and over: smooth. One after another, town clerks and other election officials told The Telegraph that turnout was light to moderate but steady. There were no long lines or waits to vote or any of the partisan incidents that were feared across the nation.

Andover Select Board member Barry Williams checks in to cast his vote. Photos by Shawn Cunningham unless otherwise noted.

In fact, in visits between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. the largest turnout was eight voters casting ballots at the same time at Chester Town Hall. Even at polling places like Windham and Peru — where officials limited the number of voters who could enter the building at one time — there were no lines. Nevertheless, many clerks felt that they would see a record turnout with the vast majority coming from mail-in and early voting.

In Landgrove, which prides itself on the having a turnout among the highest in the state, a sign outside the polls announced that just before noon that 65 percent of the town checklist had voted. A little later Andover Town Clerk Jeanette Haight said she expected turnout to approach 90 percent of the voter rolls, also known as the checklist, by the end of the day.

Chester Town Clerk Debbie Aldrich reiterated that 2,126 ballots had been mailed to Chester voters and 1,200 were returned. By 11 a.m., about 200 people had walked in to vote in person, some carrying their mail-in ballots. In the 2016  presidential election, 1,683 Chester residents voted. Aldrich said she expected about the same number this year. Although that figure gets muddied among the fact that Aldrich says that there have been quite a lot more new voters registering since Sept. 2, including quite a number who are older people who have never voted before.

The ways we voted

A voter checks in to vote by car at the Londonderry Town Office

Officials laid out their polling places to move in one direction, many with plexiglass panels, barriers, hand sanitizer and separate entrances and exits.

Some towns used sites other than their town hall or town office. In Windham, Town Clerk Mike McLaine was set up in the Windham Meeting House with a one-voter-at-a-time restriction, while in Grafton – which had used the fire station for the August primary – Town Clerk Kim Record was in the pulpit of the cavernous Brick Meeting House at the end of Main Street. Record told The Telegraph that the fire station would have been a chilly place to vote on a morning where temperatures hovered in the high 20. Another consideration was that fire trucks would have had to sit out in the cold with full tanks of water.

Cavendish used the Proctorsville Fire Station, which has a large area upstairs and Weston set up in the lobby of the Playhouse. Chester, Andover, Peru, Landgrove and Ludlow were able to use their town halls while Londonderry took a different turn by offering drive through and walk-up balloting.

Hand count towns slower, tabulator towns have ‘fold’ issues

Ken Barrett and Deb Aldrich run mail in ballots through the tabulator. Photo by Cynthia Prairie

Returns from larger towns that use optical scanning tabulators should come in first while officials in smaller towns who count their ballots by hand may not be reporting until after 10:30 this evening. But that doesn’t mean that tabulator voting has been without glitches. As The Telegraph reported on Sunday, election officials in Cavendish had to work through difficulties with putting folded ballots through the optical scanners. Town Clerk Diane McNamara said they had found some tricks to keep the mail-in ballots from hanging up in the scanners.

In Weston, Select Board member Jim Linville used a small piece of wood to “flatten” the creases while in Chester Assistant Town Clerk Amie O’Brien ran a heavy glass over the folds to accomplish the same thing. Aldrich and Justice of the Peace Ken Barrett had few difficulties with running the ballots that were opened and flattened in advance on Friday through the tabulator.

Voting important headline

Hayley Sabol fills out her ballot using a student desk in the Landgrove town office. Inset: A painting of students using the desks that hangs in the office.

In Landgrove, Hayley Sabol said she was very excited to vote. She noted that while her job is in the Albany, N.Y., area, she’s still a local resident and she wanted to vote at home.

“I grew up here,” said Sabol after dropping her ballot in the box.

Town Clerk Chrystal Cleary said that while the town provides conventional voting booths, residents prefer using the old student desks.

Ludlow resident Carly Cloutier who works a third shift at GE, which runs  from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., said she got up early to vote and did not find lines or delays.

Masks and distancing not an issue

Chuck and Kathy Giurtino hand out masks at Chester Town Hall. Photo by Cynthia Prairie

Kathy and Chuck Guirtino sat on the porch of Chester Town Hall, bundled against the cold and Covid-19, making sure everyone who entered was masked before heading up to the 2nd floor to vote — in what has been a quiet local election but a contentious presidential one.

On the table in front of them sat a box with disposable masks, which they had been handing out to those who forgot their masks or left them in their car.

As of noon, the Guirtinos said, only two people objected to wearing masks to vote, at which point they called up to Town Clerk Debbie Aldrich, who gave the go-ahead for them to come up to cast their ballots, then leave through the back door.

Asked if anyone was acting intimidating, the Guirtinos said no, the vast majority of voters had been respectful.


Cynthia Prairie contributed to this article.

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  1. Cynthia Prairie says:

    We’re working on it Rosann.

  2. Rosann Sexton says:

    Where are the results for local voting? Also Windsor county?