BOSTON — By midday Tuesday, turnout was reported to be steady in many cities and towns across Massachusetts, as voters go to the polls to fill the U.S. Senate seat left open by the death of Edward M. Kennedy.
Phones were ringing off the hook with voter inquiries in Framingham. In New Bedford, election officials expressed disbelief at the constant stream of voters. Similar turnout was reported in East Weymouth, as the parking lot at Pingree School was full as the polls opened at 7 a.m.
“This is like a presidential election!,” a poll worker in East Weymouth said.
As of 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, more than 23,000 people had voted in Boston — or about 6.5 percent of the total voting population — after two hours of polling.
But in some smaller towns, like North Adams, polling stations remained quiet. Turnout also was sparse early at Highlands Elementary School in Braintree, as snow fell rapidly at approximately 8 a.m.
Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin predicted that as many as 2.2 million voters could head to the polls Tuesday, which is about half of registered voters in Massachusetts, and the same number of people who re-elected Sen. Edward Kennedy in 2006.
Galvin said that he sent 105,000 absentee ballots to voters who requested them across the state. “The level of interest indicated by the absentee balloting indicates that interest is much higher than in the primary on Dec. 8,” he said.
He also noticed a marked increase in voter inquiry calls to his office as the race heated up in the past week. “There has been a dramatic increase in interest, and we’re hoping that translates into good turnout today,” he said.
Galvin said local officials are prepared to assist voters who have difficulty getting to the polls because of snow.
Polls will remain open until 8 p.m. Tuesday night.