A slow but steady trickle of voters arrived Tuesday morning to cast their votes at the Somerville Ward 6, Precinct 2 polling location — a Community Baptist church just outside Davis Square — as Massachusetts completed primary voting that has been going on for weeks.
Voters young and old came alone, in pairs, and with their children. One voter paused before entering to flash a thumbs up and take a selfie.
Universally, voters were wearing masks, as were the poll workers intermittently greeting them at the entrance.
Some voters, like Elizabeth Sylvian and her companion who declined to give his name, said they had cast their ballots in person out of necessity.
“Well, we never got our ballots in the mail,” said Sylvian. “We mailed [the applications] out in July and we never got them. Otherwise we never would have voted in person.”
Other, like Patrick MacDonald, a voter in his mid-20s said that voting in person was always the plan. Unlike most of his peers, he said he cannot work remotely.
“It’s just a matter of convenience for me personally,” he said. “I live right down the street. I’m heading into work anyway.”
MacDonald said he wasn’t worried about voting indoors in person during an epidemic.
“I don’t have any concerns going in” he said. “As long as you keep social distance. As long as you have some sort of personal protective equipment — mask, face shield and mask, or something — I don’t feel concerned about that.”
Safety measures were clearly being taken inside.
Hand sanitizer was readily available, and all poll workers were wearing masks and gloves. The check-in tables had plexiglass barriers that divided voters from the poll workers checking them in.
There were fewer voting cubicles than in previous elections, and they were positioned with more space between them. And poll workers were regularly spraying and wiping down the areas were people had filled out their ballot.
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Mail-in voting, that is. Here's how mail-in and early voting is going in Massachusetts: https://t.co/vIDRYRaWgc
Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin said Monday he expects Massachusetts to set a new record for voter turnout in the primary election, with between 1.35 million and 1.45 million ballots cast. But hundreds of thousands of ballots had already been cast by mail and through early voting by the time Tuesday's voting began.
Gov. Charlie Baker told reporters Tuesday that he voted for Republican Kevin O'Connor for U.S. Senate in Tuesday's primary and that he mailed his ballot early since he did not know if he'd be able to get to his Swampscott polling place on Election Day. O'Connor faces Shiva Ayyadurai in the race for the Republican nomination.
Baker said the mail-in balloting law put in place by the legislature this year and executed by Sec. of State William Galvin "was the right way to do it." The law significantly expanded access to mail in ballots.
"I think the integrity of the process with respect to how the state set it up is actually quite high," Baker said.
Clearly some polling places were expecting fewer in-person voters than usual. At Saint John Paul II Catholic Academy in Dorchester, the polling place usually occupies the entire gymnasium. On Tuesday afternoon, voting was only conducted in half the space; the other half was occupied by socially distanced desks for school children, though none were present.
There are several hotly contested races on the ballot, particularly the Democratic U.S. Senate primary between Sen. Ed Markey and his challenger Rep. Joe Kennedy. The race to replace Kennedy in the House is also considered wide open.
Voters arriving at the polls in Somerville were told to keep the pen that was provided for them to fill out their ballot. Poll workers said they are equipped with enough pens to provide one for every voter.
Outside the polling location, a ballot drop box had a sign affixed to it noting that mail-in ballots could be dropped there until 8 p.m. Ballot drop boxes are one way oficials are trying to address concerns that service cuts at the U.S. Postal Service might prevent mail-in ballots from being delivered on time.
GBH State House Reporter Mike Deehan and Senior Editor Ken Cooper contributed to this story.