With Election Day in the books, advocates laud state polling officials
Now that the dust surrounding Nov. 4 has settled, Massachusetts civil rights leaders and voting rights advocates had just two words for the Commonwealth’s election officials:
In a move that even those advocates admitted was “unusual,” a group of citizens dedicated to ensuring equal access at the polls for all Massachusetts voters issued a statement congratulating the staffs of Secretary of State William F. Galvin and the Boston Election Department on a job well done.
“On Election Day, a record 3 million people came out to the polls in Massachusetts. While there were a few problems, by and large, the day went very well for the voters of Massachusetts,” said Avi Green, executive director of the statewide voting rights advocacy organization MassVOTE, in the statement. “We have to thank Secretary of State Bill Galvin, Boston Elections Commission Chair Gerry Cuddyer, and other election officials and poll workers across the state. Their hard work paid off.”
Final ballot counts released last Thursday underscored just how impressive an accomplishment the smooth Election Day really was.
Secretary of State William F. Galvin put an exclamation point on the record turnout, saying that the final tally showed more than 3.1 million Massachusetts voters — about half the state’s total population — went to the polls on Nov. 4. That number eclipses the previous record of 2.93 million.
Poll watchers had long predicted a significant increase in voter turnout for this election, driven by the historic presidential race and several controversial ballot measures.
Anticipating potential issues caused by the presence of scores of new voters, a coalition of nonpartisan organizations — including MassVOTE, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and the Boston branch of the NAACP — met with election officials to ensure that citizens would have a free, fair election and a smooth trip to the polls. When Nov. 4 came around, the groups dispatched volunteers to help at polling places across the city.
Some problems did arise. Just over an hour after polls opened at 7 a.m., WBUR-FM reported that some Cambridge voters said they had registered to vote, but arrived at their polling place to find that their names were not on the voter list. The voters were instead asked to fill out provisional ballots.
State election officials later said human error was behind the early morning problems in Cambridge, and that one of four voter lists had not been printed and was not available at the polls. The problem was later rectified, they said.
Despite these and some other instances of voting problems, Rahsaan Hall, an attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights who coordinated an effort to recruit over 100 attorneys to operate a voter assistance hotline, said the committee was “pleased with the conduct of this election.”
“The Boston Election Department and the Secretary of State’s Elections Division responded quickly to resolve issues as they arose on Election Day, and by and large, the election went well,” Hall said.
A spirit of collaboration among election observers and poll workers helped things run smoothly, according to Karen Payne, president of the Boston branch of the NAACP.
“We were pleased with the willingness of city and state officials to work with us to ensure that the voters of Massachusetts were properly served,” she said.
The end result was an unforgettable — and largely unmarred — election, and for that, MassVOTE’s Green said, we owe the folks who staffed the polling places a debt of gratitude.
“On Nov. 4, thousands of poll workers across Massachusetts and hundreds of city and town clerks and elections officials worked from before dawn to late into the night to make sure the voters were served,” he said. “They are the heroes in this thing.”
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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