Record numbers turn out to sign up
Recorder/Paul Franz Sunderland Town Clerk Wendy Houle confirms a residents voting status on Wednesday, the last day to register before the November elections. Purchase photo reprints »
A day after President Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney sparred in the second presidential debate, town clerks across Franklin County were overwhelmed with work as new voters signed up on the last day to register before the Nov. 6 election.
Some clerks noted how this year’s voter registration day was one of the busiest in their memories.
“I’ve never seen it like this,” said Deerfield Town Clerk Mary Stokarski, who has been clerk for 11 years.
Stokarski said it was nonstop Wednesday at the Town Hall. By 4 p.m. at least 25 people registered. The Town Hall held registration hours from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Stokarski attributed many of the new voters to Deerfield Academy. The private school had brought its 18-year-old students to the Town Hall to register. Like many town clerks, Stokarski would not have the total number of registered voters until this morning. As of Jan. 1, there were 3,486 registered voters in Deerfield.
Another reason for the registration bump could be previously inactive voters are reactivating, Stokarski said.
If a person does not respond to the U.S. Census, each town sends the individual a memo stating the person has become an inactive voter. Residents can be put back on the rolls if they register or come with evidence of their town residence and identification on election day.
“We give voters every chance in the world to make sure they are able to vote. No one is turned away on election day,” Stokarski said.
A total of 40 new residents registered to vote in Sunderland. Many of this town’s new voters are University of Massachusetts students, Town Clerk Wendy Houle said.
That number is reflected in the increase in voters in the last month. A total of 2,347 residents were registered to vote during the Sept. 6 primary. But that number jumped to 2,499 over the past month.
“Presidential elections bring out more voters,” Houle said.
One problem Houle experienced as the clerk for a town bordering Amherst is that many students registered on campus to vote. But as the registration deadline neared, many found their registration forms did not make it to the Sunderland Town Hall. Houle said three students complained of lost registration forms.
An Army veteran and 22-year-old student, Charlie Ciano is one whose ballot was lost.
Arriving home from Afghanistan in February, this will be Ciano’s second election.
“I want to try to change the course of where the country is going,” Ciano said.
She is undecided but is leaning toward Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson.
In Greenfield, Town Clerk Maureen Winseck said at least 100 residents registered. Throughout the day from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., new voters showed up at Town Hall in bouts and spells.
Since the Sept. 6 primary, approximately 400 residents registered to vote, Winseck said. The number of registered voters jumped from 11,254 in the primary to 11,602 Wednesday.
On Chestnut Plain Road in Whately, the phone at the former Center School offices rang all day.
“We are getting a lot of calls from people asking if they are registered,” Town Administrator Lynn Sibley said.
As of 3 p.m. seven new voters registered in Whately, where registration hours were 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Since the Sept. 6 primary, about 50 people registered.
The clerks said they would not know how many people registered as Democrat, Republican or for a third party until after press time.
Excluding the number of new registrations, in Greenfield, there are 3,872 registered Democrats, 1,087 registered Republicans, 6,558 unenrolled voters, 51 voters registered in the Green Rainbow Party and 31 registered in other political designations.
At 4:30 p.m., Stephen McPheters registered in Greenfield. He was originally registered in Sunderland, but recently moved to Greenfield.
“This is an important election,” McPheters said. “I didn’t want to miss it.”
Although undecided voters have become the main target for Obama and Romney campaigns, many people registering Wednesday have made their decision.
McPheters was already confident in his choice for president.
“Obama. I’ve always been a liberal Democrat,” McPheters said. “He was dealt a hard hand. I believe in his political theories.”
Likewise, Sunderland resident Tracey Lewia will vote for Obama.
“This is important to decide our future. It is important to know what’s going on,” Lewia said as she registered at the Sunderland Town Hall late Wednesday afternoon. “I believe in (Obama’s) policies. I believe he’s doing a good job.”
Kathleen McKiernan can be reached at email@example.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.