Closely following the electoral mood of the country, voters in Dukes County turned out in huge numbers this week to cast ballots for national, state and local offices and to add their collective voice to an array of commonwealth initiative petition questions on everything from greyhound racing to universal health care.
In a characteristic show of independence, Island voters also bucked a number of the statewide trends, although like the rest of the commonwealth, they voted in large numbers for Vice President Al Gore over Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
A total of 5,470 voters threw their support to Mr. Gore, while 2,315 voted for Mr. Bush. Every one of the seven towns in the county favored Mr. Gore. The closest vote was in the tiny town of Gosnold (the Elizabeth Islands), where the Gore-Bush split was 39-33. Gosnold is the seventh town in Dukes County and the smallest town in the commonwealth.
Green Party candidate Ralph Nader also did very well in the county, capturing 983 votes, or 11 per cent of the total votes cast for president. Enthusiasm for Mr. Nader was evident in many places, from Main street in Edgartown where a sidewalk Green Party table was set up on election day, to a micro-brewery ale house in Oak Bluffs, where an offbeat Nader victory party was staged one day before the election.
On election day the weather was sunny and mild, with gusty winds from the north. Polling places in every town did a brisk business throughout the day. Turnouts were heavy in every town, from a low of 67 per cent in Gosnold to a high of 79 per cent in Tisbury and West Tisbury. "It was marvelous - what an active, energetic day," bubbled one poll worker in Tisbury later.
Countywide the turnout was 75 per cent - a total of 8,900 voters cast ballots, out of 11,877 registered.
In the larger Island towns, the big turnout kept town hall workers and volunteers busy until midnight or later - especially in West Tisbury, where ballots are still counted by hand. The three down-Island towns now use voting machines, but write-in candidates must be counted by hand.
Dukes County voters followed the rest of the state in returning veteran U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy to another term, and they voted in large numbers to send 10th Congressional District Rep. William Delahunt back to Washington for another term.
When it came to state representative and the state senate races, Dukes County voters also went heavily for the Democratic candidates, voting to return incumbent Eric T. Turkington to another term as Cape and Islands representative, and to elect Robert O'Leary as the new Cape and Islands state senator. Mr. O'Leary will fill the seat left vacant by former Cape and Islands Sen. Henri Rauschenbach.
On the eight state ballot questions, voters in Dukes County stubbornly refused to follow certain statewide trends, for example voting in large numbers to ban greyhound racing and endorse universal health care.
Locally the most talked-about issue was the race for the Martha's Vineyard Commission - and here the Island voters delivered their own unambiguous mandate, electing nine conservation-minded candidates, including two Island farmers, to the regional land use commission.
Uncontested local races included the Dukes County Commission, where Roger Wey, Leonard Jason Jr. and John S. Alley were elected with 5,483, 5,127 and 4,444 votes, respectively.
Also elected without contest were Dukes County clerk of courts Joseph E. Sollitto Jr. with 6,575 votes, and register of deeds Diane Powers, with 6,882 votes.