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As Early Voting Closes In Mass., Voters In Ware Look Toward Election Day04:42
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Poll worker Rose Marie Leeman hands a ballot to Kendall Gilmore during early voting at the Senior Center in Ware. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Poll worker Rose Marie Leeman hands a ballot to Kendall Gilmore during early voting at the Senior Center in Ware. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

With just four days to go until election day, more than two million people in Massachusetts have already cast their ballots during the early voting period that ends Friday.

Among those voting early was Patty Bonneau, who cast her ballot in the town of Ware, which supported President Trump in 2016. But on Thursday, Bonneau voted for Joe Biden because, she said, Trump has failed on several important issues.

"I would say his handling of the virus for one thing," she said. "Climate — especially science — because global warming is a thing and it worries me that he doesn't care about it. But I don't like him. As a woman, I don't like him."

Her husband, Peter Bonneau, agrees that Trump has mismanaged the health crisis, but he gives him credit for a strong economy before the pandemic. So he voted for Trump; a stark disagreement within one family that reflects a divided nation.

"When it comes to the economy, I'm a small business owner, so [Trump's policies] worked for me," he said.

Asked if the political disagreement with his wife creates a problem at home, Peter Bonneau smiled and said, "No."

"Because we don't discuss it at home," he said. "Otherwise I know there'd be a big fight."

Patty and Peter Bonneau receives their ballots for early voting at a polling station inside the Ware Senior Center. (Jesse Costs/WBUR)
Patty and Peter Bonneau receives their ballots for early voting at a polling station inside the Ware Senior Center. (Jesse Costs/WBUR)

Throughout Thursday, voters came into Ware's Senior Center to cast their ballots. Denise Blodgett, a poll worker, said it's been busy since early voting began two weeks ago.

"Every day it's been really good," she said. "A steady flow of voters."

Ware is a town of about 10,000 residents with some 6,900 registered voters — a considerable increase from four years ago. More than half of them have already voted early or by mail according to Ware Town Clerk Nancy Talbot, president of the Massachusetts Town Clerks Association.

"We are definitely up this election cycle," Talbot said. "Early voting across the commonwealth has been a phenomenal success."

Talbot is confident that the state's brand new vote-by-mail system is working — even if it will require a lot of effort on election night, when all those ballot envelopes have to be opened and the votes tabulated.

"The only concern I have is the [immense number of] ballots that arrive and the time that it's going to take to cast them, but it's no [different] than if the same [number] of voters arrived in person on election day," she said.

Talbot said she's confident that election officials are capable of running fair elections despite Trump's claims that voting by mail will lead to massive voter fraud.

"People should really just follow the rules that are put in place by their states and their cities and towns, rather than rely on misinformation that may be promoted out there," she said.

For people who still plan to vote by mail, their ballots must be postmarked by Election Day. Otherwise, people should vote in person, Talbot said.

Ware Town Clerk Nancy Talbot stands next to a ballot drop box outside of town hall. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Ware Town Clerk Nancy Talbot stands next to a ballot drop box outside of town hall. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

But at the senior center in Ware on Thursday, some voters were concerned about fraud and said Trump is right to sound the alarm.

"I have been seeing quite a few stories about ballots found in trash cans, other [ballot] boxes set on fire," said Laura Merwin, who voted for Trump on Thursday. "I can't say I blame him. If it were me who was running, I would be concerned about it as well."

Even so, Merwin doesn't think the problem could actually affect the outcome of the election. But Joseph Martel had clearly absorbed the Trump's warnings.

"With mail-in-voting and all that, it's just out of whack the way it's going," Martel said. "It's going to be fraud. I wouldn't be a bit surprised that when the election comes along we have a civil war."

It is true that a ballot box was lit on fire in Boston last weekend, but voter fraud is exceedingly rare.

"The only thing fraudulent here are [Trump's] comments," said Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin, speaking recently to WBUR's Radio Boston. Galvin argued that vote-by-mail already has a proven track-record in Massachusetts.

"We just had a very successful primary on Sept. 1 with a record turn-out," Galvin said. "I think the voters who participated by mail or early in-person or voting at the polls all felt their votes were counted."

But it's also true that Massachusetts election officials rejected nearly 18,000 ballots from last month's state primary, in many cases because they arrived too late. So the system is not perfect. Still, with more than two million votes already cast, Galvin said Massachusetts is poised to surpass its voter turnout record from the 2016 election.

This segment aired on October 30, 2020.

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Anthony Brooks Twitter Senior Political Reporter
Anthony Brooks is WBUR's senior political reporter.

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