Mass. Voters Queue Up Early For Historic Election

Lines snaked down sidewalks, through parking lots and around buildings Tuesday as Massachusetts voters finally had their say on an historic presidential race and a slate of hotly debated ballot questions, including one to abolish the state income tax.

Richard Smith, a 76-year-old semi-retired truck mechanic, was struck by the intensity of the race between John McCain, who would be the oldest man elected president, and Barack Obama, who would be the first black president.

"For months you couldn't turn on a TV without seeing their faces," said Smith, who voted for McCain at a Topsfield church. "There's so much going on, there's the war, and the economy and everything. Nobody's satisfied with what's going on."

The lines were long in Somerville as temperature warmed in the late morning, but voters were in a good mood, joking and allowing older people to cut ahead.

Sharon White, 51, said didn't think the polling site had enough booths.

"I don't think they expected this amount of people coming," White said. "Who knows what it's going to be like from three o'clock to seven o'clock at night."

Of 11 congressional races, just five - including the seat of Democratic Sen. John Kerry - were contested. Kerry faced Republican challenger Jeff Beatty, a former CIA official and member of the Army's Delta Force.

Voters also must decide three ballot questions that have been the focus of intense campaigning.

Question One would eliminate the state's 5.3 percent income tax by January 2010. Jim Slater, a 40-year accountant from Topsfield, said he hoped a "yes" vote would shock state politicians into curbing spending.

"By forcing the politicians to start looking at spending, maybe they'll do something about it," he said. "If nothing's done, the system will crash on itself."

The second question would decriminalize possession of an ounce or less of marijuana in Massachusetts, punishing those caught with the drug with a $100 civil fine. Question Three would prohibit any dog racing that included betting or wagering - essentially closing the state's two greyhound racetracks by Jan. 1, 2010.

Secretary of State William Galvin had predicted a record turnout Tuesday, with more than 3 million people expected to vote. The previous record, set in 2004, was 2.93 million voters.

A record 4.2 million people were registered to vote in Massachusetts in this election.

Galvin spokesman, Brian McNiff, said turnout was heavy early Tuesday.

In Cambridge, some residents discovered their names were missing from eligible voter lists, because a faulty list was distributed, McNiff said. Corrected lists have since been distributed at polling sites, and anyone affected was allowed to cast a provisional ballot, he said.

McNiff also sent an e-mail to WEEI-AM talk show hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan telling them to "knock it off" after hearing complaints about their remarks that the election was postponed and Democrats should vote Wednesday. Calls to the hosts and the station's programming director were not immediately returned.

In suburban Natick, about 15 miles west of Boston, about 200 people lined up at one polling station before polls opened at 7 a.m., and 100 more joined once polls opened. Polls statewide close at 8 p.m.

Gov. Deval Patrick waited in line in Milton, just south of Boston, then headed to his native Chicago to attend Obama's election night festivities.

A line of about 50 people nearly doubled shortly after polls opened in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood. Dewitt Jones, 51, waited in line while his 8- and 11-year-old sons did some last-minute campaigning nearby with Obama signs and stickers. His oldest son, Cameron, even had a chart to track the states when returns started coming in.

"He hasn't taken his hat off - he has an Obama hat - for several months," Jones said.

This program aired on November 4, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.


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