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In-person early voting slow, while poll shows many are anxious about upcoming presidential primary

A "vote here" sign marks the entrance to an early voting station.
Steve Karnowski
A "vote here" sign marks the entrance to an early voting station.

Some elections officials in western Massachusetts say early in-person voting for Tuesday's presidential primary has not been popular amongst voters.

In Pittsfield, early in-person voting was available for a total of 12 hours over the weekend. According to city clerk Michele Benjamin, turnout was in the single digits.

"It's not really cost effective. It costs the city a lot of money to have staff here all weekend only to have eight people come in and vote in 12 hours," Benjamin said

Benjamin said this week, a few dozen more voters cast ballots in person. Officials in Palmer and Ludlow said early voting has been slow in their communities as well. But all three said mail in voting has been a far more popular option, with Pittsfield distributing nearly 5,000 ballots with about half of those already being returned.

Those who have yet to return mail-in ballots have until Tuesday night to get them in the hands of their respective city or town clerks. Many communities have drop boxes where they may be placed.

UMass Poll finds voters anxious about presidential race

A recent UMass Amherst poll finds voters have a lot of anxiety surrounding the 2024 presidential election. Among those polled, 73% are concerned about the possibility of election violence. That includes a majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents.

UMass Poll director and provost political science professor Tatishe Nteta said given this worry, it seems like a good idea for the two leading candidates, President Joe Biden, and former President Donald Trump, to address this.

"It almost feels like this is an opportunity for those elected officials, including both presidents, Biden and Trump, to speak to this issue specifically, and speak to their supporters and tell them that regardless of the outcome, a peaceful transition of power is in the interests of all,” Nteta said. “Whether or not that happens, I think again, it's going to be one of the stories of this upcoming election and if the past is prologue, we're probably not going to see that from former President Trump."

The poll of 1,000 voters nationally also found 45% believe a Biden/Trump rematch is bad for the country, and more than half wish neither candidate ran again.

One key finding, pollsters said, is that since there is a good deal of negative emotions associated with the presidential race, turnout and voter interest is likely to be high.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
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