The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 7, 2008

It’s official – Carlisle passes Question 4 and sheds “dry” status

Carlisle voters turned out in large numbers to cast their ballots on November 4 in an unusual election with far-reaching local, state and national ramifications. A total of 3,231 of the

Mary Hult helps Election Warden Kerri Piette process absentee ballots at Town Hall on Election Day. (Photo by Beth Clarke)

town’s 3,740 registered voters participated.

The sale of beer and wine is permanently allowed in Carlisle, as voters passed Ballot Question 4 at the election on Tuesday by a margin of 2,333 to 852. State regulations required residents to approve the question three times, and this was the final vote, after earlier passage in 2004 and 2006. The Selectmen have been allowed to grant licenses during the interim years and Ferns Country Store has a license for off-premise sales, contingent upon completion of their planned store expansion.

In the presidential race, Carlisle mirrored the nation by choosing Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain, by a margin of 2,102 to 1,052 votes. John Kerry won re-election to the United States Senate and Nicola Tsongas won another term in the House of Representatives. In Massachusetts contests, State Senator Susan Fargo and State Representative Cory Atkins were both re-elected. Marilyn Petitto Devaney was re-elected as Councillor for the Third Middlesex District, and Tara DeCristofaro was elected Register of Probate for Middlesex County (see table, page 4).

State ballot questions

Carlisle matched the state results on Ballot Questions 1 to 3. Question 1 failed in Carlisle, with 1,113 votes in favor and 2,090 against. Residents voted 2,241 to 949 on Ballot Question 2 to decriminalize possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, and Question 3 to outlaw dog racing in Massachusetts passed 2,178 to 966.

Traffic management successful

Several modifications were made to the normal Election Day routine at Town Hall in anticipation of high voter turnout. Polling was held from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., opening an hour earlier than usual. This time there were three instead of the normal two poll workers checking in voters, and there were additional volunteers to help out as needed. One of the three police officers assigned to the election helped with traffic control.

To prevent logjams in the parking lot, off-site parking alternatives were encouraged this year. The Church Street extension joining Westford and Concord Streets was closed to through traffic on Tuesday to provide additional parking spaces. Municipal employees were encouraged to leave their cars at Center Park. The Recreation Commission’s van was pressed into service for a free voter shuttle that ran between Town Hall and the Kimball Farm parking lot on Bedford Road. In addition, the Council on Aging van provided free rides to seniors and disabled voters.

Eager to vote

According to Irene Blake, Assistant to the Town Clerk, there were about 30 people in line outside the building by 5:30 a.m., half an hour before the polls opened. Within an hour, the parking lot was busy and almost 200 people had voted. The count had risen to 1,300 four hours later. By noon, 1,800 votes had been tallied by the town’s old wooden ballot box. Another thousand had voted by late afternoon with more people arriving continuously. The final turnout included 86% of the registered voters, similar to other recent presidential elections. In 2004 roughly 89% of Carlisle’s registered voters participated, while in 2000 the turnout was 87%.

While voters arrived in a steady stream, lines were usually short and there were often empty spaces in the parking lot. One couple avoided the parking issue in a novel way – Kathryn and Andrew Dennison took advantage of the fine weather to travel to Town Hall by tandem bicycle.

Some voters were determined to vote in spite of other things competing for their time. Town Clerk Charlene Hinton noted that over 600 absentee ballots were cast in Carlisle, well over the previous record of 445 set in the last presidential election. Hinton said that one man requested an absentee ballot near Monday’s noon deadline, explaining that his wife wanted to vote, but would not be in town on Tuesday because she was in the hospital in labor. He delivered her completed ballot back to the Town Hall the next day, after his wife had successfully delivered their baby boy.

Voter registration up

Approximately 100 residents have registered to vote in Carlisle since the February primary. While records are not kept on how many who registered were first-time voters, Hinton recalls a “substantial” number were. Besides high school and college students, many older residents also became new voters. Hinton noted, “There were at least a dozen adults between 30 and 50 years old.”

Counting the votes

Election Wardens Eva Herndon and Kerri Piette organized the dozens of volunteers who began counting the regular ballots at 8:45 p.m., after the absentee ballots had been processed. Working in pairs, the volunteers counted stacks of 50 ballots, finishing at about 10 p.m. Democrats and Republicans are matched with someone with a different party affiliation, or with a voter not enrolled in any party. Hinton said that a loan of comfortable folding chairs made the volunteers more comfortable and a loan of a dozen card tables helped those who counted the votes in the evening.

As of noon, only one person had used the town’s handicapped-accessible electronic voting machine. Hinton said that if no one else used it, she would at the end of the day. Why? To protect the privacy of the first voter. As long as the machine is used at least twice, volunteer counters who may have happened to observe the machine in use will not know which person cast which ballot.

There was a small glitch with the ballot box and the final total shown on the box was one greater than the number of actual voters. Hinton explained that a voter started to pull her ballot back out while the “Town Crank” was turning the handle on the ballot box and the paper became stuck in the slot. Hinton believes that the process of unjamming the machine caused an extra activation of the box’s built-in counter.

New partial ballots allowed

Counting was complicated by the new option of partial ballots introduced shortly before the election. Hinton explained that the state created partial ballots particularly to help voters who may have had to relocate due to the recent spate of foreclosed mortgages. Normally after moving, a voter may continue to vote in their former community for six months, after which they must register in their new town. The partial ballot is being offered to voters who have moved between six and 18 months ago and who have not yet registered in a new community. The partial ballot provided qualifying former residents the chance to vote on questions 1 to 3 as well as the presidential and senate races. One partial ballot was cast in Carlisle, from someone who had moved about 17 months ago.∆

Election Results November 4, 2008

Total votes cast – 3231

President and Vice President:

Obama and Biden (Democratic) – 2102
McCain and Palin (Republican) – 1052
Nader and Gonzalez (Independent) – 30
Barr and Root (Libertarian) – 14
Baldwin and Castle (Constitution) – 4
McKinney and Clemente (Green-Rainbow) – 4
Blank – 18
Other - 7

Senator in Congress:

John F. Kerry (D, candidate for re-election) – 1963
Jeffrey K. Beatty (R) – 1106
Robert J. Underwood (L) – 97
Blank – 65

Representative in Congress:

Nicola S. Tsongas (D, candidate for re-election) – 2449
Blank – 763
Other - 19


Marilyn M. Petitto Devaney (D, candidate for re-election) – 2064
Blank – 1159
Other – 8

Senator in General Court:

Susan C. Fargo (D, candidate for re-election) – 1905
Sandra B. Martinez (R) – 1174
Blank – 152

Representative in General Court

Cory Atkins (D, candidate for re-election) – 2078
Richard P. McClure (I) – 907
Blank – 243
Other - 3

Register of Probate

Tara E. DeCristofaro (D) – 2091
Blank – 1132
Other - 8

Question 1 to repeal Massachusetts income tax:

Yes – 1113
No – 2090
Blank – 28

Question 2 to decriminalize possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana:

Yes – 2241
No – 949
Blank – 41

Question 3 to prohibit dog racing:

Yes – 2178
No – 966
Blank – 87

Question 4 to allow sale of beer and wine in Carlisle:

Yes – 2333
No – 852
Blank – 46


© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito