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Voting day: In some towns, polls busy despite heavy snow

  • Voters got off to an early start in Loudon on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. Photo by Leah Willingham / Monitor staff

  • Mike Wayne, running for selectman in Bow, greets voters at Bow Memorial School on Tuesday morning, March 13, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Mike Wayne, running for selectman in Bow, greets voters at Bow Memorial School on Tuesday morning, March 13, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Sarah Radomski, 9, camps out under an umbrella while her mother Melissa greets voters at Bow Memorial School Tuesday morning, March 13, 2018. Radomski is running for a seat on the budget committee. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Mike Wayne, running for selectman in Bow, greets voters at Bow Memorial School on Tuesday morning, March 13, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Mike Wayne, running for selectman in Bow, greets voters at Bow Memorial School on Tuesday morning, March 13, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • LEAH WILLINGHAM / Monitor staffPolly Dawson stands outside the polling station in Boscawen on Tuesday, holding a sign for her friend Susan Kilgar, a write in candidate for town clerk.

  • Grayson Klunk (right blue jacket) checks in on mom Melynie Klunk's voting status while his siblings Gabrielle (center green jacket) and Alexander Klunk look on in Bow on March 13, 2018. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • Steve Forster of Henniker talks with Mark Lindsley outside Henniker Community School during voting day on March 13, 2018. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • The outside of Hopkinton Middle/High School on voting day on March 13, 2018. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • Syd Barnes leaves a voting booth with his 16-year-old daughter, Katie, at Weare Middle School during Tuesday's snowstorm on town voting day, Mar. 13, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Weare selectmen Tom Clow (left) and Frederick Hippler stand outside Weare Middle School to greet voters during Tuesday's snowstorm on town voting day, Mar. 13, 2018. Hippler brought a patio umbrella but windy conditions threatened to blow it away. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Weare residents come to Weare Middle School to vote during Tuesday's snowstorm on town voting day, Mar. 13, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Dunbarton residents come to the Dunbarton Community Center to vote during Tuesday's snowstorm on town voting day, Mar. 13, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Lynn Auger leaves a voting booth at the Dunbarton Community Center during Tuesday's snowstorm on town voting day, Mar. 13, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Joseph Dussault, 91, votes at Weare Middle School during Tuesday's snowstorm on town voting day, Mar. 13, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Dunbarton residents come to the Dunbarton Community Center to vote during Tuesday's snowstorm on town voting day, Mar. 13, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Canterbury ballot clerk Mary Hauptman plays with Anna Sue Mason, 5, during voting hours on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Canterbury resident Doug Russwick, 86, talks with friends after voting at town hall on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Canterbury selectman George Glines watches as his granddaughter Anna Sue Mason, 5, draws at the ballot clerk table as people vote on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Anna Sue Mason, 5, gets ready to leave the Canterbury town hall with her grandfather, Selectman George Glines on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Heather Price wonders how much longer she is going to hold her sign for friend Cheryl Mitchell outside the Boscawen voting area on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. Price had been out for an hour and a half and had a cup of hot tea to keep herself warm. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Canterbury resident Doug Russwick, 86, talks with selectman Cheryl Gordon after voting at town hall on Tuesday, March 13, 2108. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Webster firefighter Rob Wolinski, center, talks with Dave Collins, Chris Schadler and Sue Roman as voters come out of Webster town hall during the snowstorm during voting on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff


By Monitor staff
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

4:30 p.m. No choice but to stay open

If given the choice, Weare town moderator John Foss said he probably would have postponed voting because of the storm, but the choice wasn’t his.

“The Secretary of State made it very clear that we were to be open. Period,” Foss said.

He acknowledged that each town having the power to postpone elections could be chaotic for the Secretary of State’s Office, but for safety sake he said local officials should have the authority to make those decisions.

“I think that town officials need to be able to consolidate, get advice, think in terms of what’s in the best interest of their community,” he said. “The ultimate decision is on the part of the voter. Are they gonna come out and vote or are they not?” 

Joseph Dussault came out to vote despite the snow. The 91-year-old used to drive down to Boston to plow Logan International Airport. 

“I always vote,” he said. “I have driven in snowstorms for years, but it’s getting so it’s not as much fun as it used to be.” 

Syd Barnes also came out with his 16-year-old daughter Katie.

“I’m going to vote no matter what, as my duty,” the Barnes said. One motivating factor besides the issues, was his daughter, who had questions about the voting process.

“I didn’t know how it worked and I was just curious,” Katie said, who had no school because of the snow.

3:45 p.m. Steady stream in Warner

Ray Martin, who's been Warner's moderator for 20-plus years said turnout had been high, especially in the morning. People have consistently voted in high numbers in Warner, but contested races for the select board, clerk, and town treasurer may also be bringing people to the polls, he said.

"Turnout has been very good. Last year we held it on the regular day through the snowstorm, and we got our normal voter turnout, which was about 40 percent. And we're kind of on track to get that again," he said. 

The biggest topic in town, though, won't be decided today. Warner residents will vote Saturday about whether or not to approve a $2.75 million warrant to build a new fire station in town.

Don Wheeler, a volunteer with the historical society, manned a booth for the club Tuesday selling baked goods, quiches, mugs and sweatshirts at Town Hall. He said he'd heard a few comments here and there about the races, but  it was the fire station everyone was talking about.

"That's been the big thing," he said.

3:00 p.m. Standing tall in Webster

Despite the snow, Roger Becker felt he had a good reason to stay outside the polls. 

In Webster, where there is a contested select board race, Becker was holding a sign rooting for his pick: wildlife educator Chris Schadler. 

Schadler is currently chairwoman of the Webster conservation commission. She moved to Webster five years ago, and is running against Adam Pearson, a seventh generation Webster resident. 

Becker was also advocating for another cause - he stood next to a sign telling voters not to vote for an article two on the ballot, which would combine the positions of town clerk and tax collector. 

He said the townspeople who submitted the petition to put article two on the ballot weren't very clear about why they were doing it. He guessed it might be an effort to save the town money, but said didn't think taking away someone's job was the way to do that. 

"We have a very capable town clerk and tax collector," he said. "Getting rid of that position is no way to take care of your people." 

Around 3 p.m., Webster had seen more than 300 voters. 

12:50 a.m.: Agritourism on the minds of Henniker voters

Steve Forster was the lone sign holder outside Henniker Community School. He only stopped holding his sign when he hopped in his truck drink some coffee – even then, his sign was propped up.

But Forster’s got a stake in the game – articles 8-11 concern the definition of agritourism in Henniker.

The biggest change to the zoning amendment would remove the word “ancillary,” the same word that tripped Forster up when his case against the town on whether he could host weddings on his Christmas tree farm went to the Supreme Court.

Proponents say the measures would allow Henniker farmers to diversify their businesses and stay afloat financially; opponents say it would allow anyone to start a commercial business as long as they called themselves a farm and would weaken the town’s land use boards authority.

Forster said he’s heard positive feedback from people he’s talked to. “This will get rid of all the issues in town,” he said. “I gotta make a living somehow. I’m retired, I don’t work, except for my farm.”

Also on voters’ minds is a proposition to bring full-day kindergarten to Henniker. Moderator Wayne Colby said parents have been largely supportive of the article.

But Mark Lindsley felt differently. “It’s overpriced babysitting,” he said, noting he doesn’t have kids in the schools. “Let kids be kids, let them play and grow up.”

Turnout was pretty quiet, with only 247 of the town’s 3,800 registered voters out by 11:45 a.m.

12:30 p.m.: School, Merrimack Station on the minds of Bow voters

Bow voters were sluggish getting out of the gate, this morning, with only 248 ballots cast by 8:30 a.m., moderator Peter Isme said. If that seems high, consider this: 340 voters had turned out by that time during last year’s town meeting.

Lisa Cohen, who has been working as a supervisor of the checklist for six years, said the snow might be a factor – but not in the way you might think. “I think people saw the snow this morning and said, ‘Eh, it’s not as bad as we thought,’ ” she said. “There isn’t as much of a rush to get out beforehand.”

Bow has seen significantly more absentee voters this year, with 93 ballots turned in. Last year they had 23, said selectman Eric Anderson.

Cohen said voters are thinking about the Merrimack Station valuation case and wondering how it’s going to affect the town by the road.

But they’re also thinking about the schools and moving forward. Melynie Klunk, her three children Alexander and Grayson, 4, and Gabrielle, 5, in tow, said she was out to support the school budget and the community building.

She said she wasn’t sure if the $93,000 petition warrant article to do some much-needed electrical and safety measures on one side of the building was the best way forward at this time, but that she was strongly against demolishing the building.

“We need to have a big picture view,” she said. “But I need to hear all sides, too. That’s why you have to go to the meeting.”

12:00 p.m.: Hopkinton focused on economic development, school safety

After a tense school district town meeting, the conversation about what to do with the schools is still on the minds of voters, selectman said Steve Lux Jr.

Although the school board withdrew a $30 million facilities project proposal after concerns from residents and the select board about its tax impact, it was enough to galvanize people, Lux said. In particular, residents are worried about the middle/high school’s security after the Parkland, Fla. shooting.

“(The work) has been put off for years,” Lux, who is up for re-election, said. “It’s taken awhile for something to get done.” He noted the district has received a grant to help improve the school’s safety.

Another issue on people’s minds are articles that would establish tax increment finance (TIF) districts around Interstate 89’s Exit 6 and in the area of Maple Street and Route 202/9, known as Hart’s Corner.

A TIF district can encourage economic development, proponents say, by freezing the tax rate for businesses who build within it. The money collected is then used for infrastructure improvements.

Selectman Bob Gerseny said establishing the TIF districts would be the next natural step to help encourage economic development in the town. He said feedback on the measures have been largely positive.

“For a long time people have not been enthusiastic about economic development,” he said. “I think people are waking up and seeing that we need to get going.”

 

11:45 a.m.: Close to 100 voters so far in Boscawen

Boscawen had seen close to 100 voters at polls by 11:30 a.m., select board member Mike Varney said.

That’s almost as many voters as the total number Boscawen saw last year – the town had 117 voters during the 2017 snow storm on election day.

Varney said he thought the reason for the high voter turnout in the morning was because the storm is expected to get worse throughout the day, echoing town officials in other towns.

There also aren’t many big contested races in Boscawen this year, Varney said. There is one write-in candidate for town clerk, Susan Kilgus, running against Cheryl Mitchell – but all other races are uncontested.

Townspeople will also be voting on whether to turn Boscawen’s King Street area in to a “village district,” giving the town more control on aesthetic features of downtown, like parking and building presentation.

Boscawen’s town meeting, which was scheduled for tonight, has been postponed to Saturday, March 24 at 10:30 a.m., due to weather, Varney said.

Varney said he thinks the decision on whether to vote during inclement weather should be left up to the town moderators – not dictated by the state.

“To set a standard for the state, when we go from the Mass border all the way up to Pittsburg, and the weather can be totally different, doesn’t make sense,” he said.

“It’s like a double edge sword. We want people to get out and vote, but we want people to be safe,” Varney said. “We’re putting them at risk by not being able to postpone the elections.”

Varney said the town made the decision last night to cancel town meeting.

10:30 a.m.: Early start in Loudon

More than 100 voters had already visited Loudon Town Hall by 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning to cast ballots.

Moderator Sharon Drake said the town was seeing an even higher voter turnout than last year.

“Because we’re at the front end of the storm, I think people are coming out to do their voting first thing,” she said. “Better earlier than later.”

Loudon didn’t cancel elections last year - even though many towns did because of inclement weather.

Mike Drotar of Loudon was standing outside picketing on Tuesday by 8 a.m., and he said he planned to be there until polls closed at 7 p.m.tonight. He was wearing heavy boots, a jacket and gloves.

He said he doeesn’t think towns should postpone elections – no matter the weather.

“If we did reschedule it, two weeks later, we’d get another snowstorm,” he said. “We’re living in new England. What can you do?”