Clerks say presidential primary drawing voter interest
Sparked by hotly contested Democratic and Republican presidential primary races, people are flocking to city and town halls to register to vote and change party affiliations before the state’s Feb. 5 election, South Shore officials say.
“A lot of them are newcomers, a lot of students,” Hanover Town Clerk Robert Shea said.
At least 100 new voters have registered in Hanover since Christmas, Shea said. “We’re running into people registering to vote who have lived here four or five years and hadn’t up until now,” he said.
Wednesday is the final day to register to vote in the Massachusetts presidential primary.
Secretary of State William F. Galvin said his office has been getting “literally thousands of phone calls” for voter registration information.
“I think it’s an exciting election, and it has become more so in the last few days. It’s an important election,” Galvin said.
As for what is different this time, Galvin said “It’s an open seat in the presidency. I think there’s an increasing awareness of the problems facing the country, such as the economy and foreign affairs. And, there’s awareness among voters of the power of the presidency and how it affects their individual lives.”
One change for this presidential primary is that voters without a party affiliation can take either a Republican or Democratic ballot without automatically being enrolled in that party.
“They’ll remain independent no matter what,” Galvin said.
In Randolph, Town Clerk Brian Howard said 118 new voters registered last week. Eighteen other voters changed their affiliation from Republican or Democrat to unenrolled, which allows them to take either party ballot when they go to the polls.
Howard anticipates he will match those numbers in the next three days.
“I think the results and the coverage of the New Hampshire primary is driving the interest in this primary,” he said.
Quincy City Clerk Joseph Shea said the decision to reschedule the Massachusetts primary from March to Feb. 5 and the light schedule of primaries and caucuses before that is adding interest.
“It will make Massachusetts more meaningful,” he said. “It means we’re in the process more. Last time, by March, it was over.”
U.S. Sen. John Kerry had all but wrapped up the Democratic nomination on the day of the 2004 Massachusetts primary, while President George Bush was unopposed for the Republican nomination.
Canton Town Clerk Tracy Kenney said she is seeing a lot of college students registering to vote.
“They’re home from school right now for the holidays,” she said.
Hull Town Clerk Janet Bennett said there has been an increase in requests for absentee ballots.
“You usually don’t get a lot of absentee ballots in a primary, but we’ve had quite a few, much more than usual,” she said.
How to register:
Wednesday is the deadline to register to vote in the Feb. 5 presidential primary election. Here’s how to register:
- In person at city and town clerk’s offices: The offices will be open until 8 p.m. Wednesday for voter registration.
- In person at the Registry of Motor Vehicles
- At a city or town hall in another Massachusetts municipality: The registration will be transferred to the community where the voter resides
- By mail: Forms are available at libraries and post offices, or can be downloaded from the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Web site at www.sec.state.ma.us. Secretary of State William F. Galvin recommends voters bring the form to the post office and have it hand canceled by a clerk so it is postmarked Wednesday or earlier
Fred Hanson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Patriot Ledger