Vineyard voters go to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in the 2012 presidential election. And while the big draw is the race for president and large turnouts are expected here as elsewhere, Vineyard voters will also make choices on a host of other state and local issues, from a close Massachetts Senate race to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to medical marijuana.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., on Tuesday, Nov. 6. At press time the weather forecast called for partly cloudy skies with a high of 49 degrees.
At the top of the ticket, Vineyarders, like the rest of the nation, will weigh in on whether to elect President Barack Obama to a second term or hand over the White House to Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
Also on the ballot is a closely-contested, nationally-watched Senate race between incumbent Sen. Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren, and a new ninth congressional district race. Closer to home, Islanders will choose the composition of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, the Island’s only regional planning agency, and vote for commissioners for the Dukes County Commission.
The Vineyard will help vote for the first representative from the state’s new congressional district. The old 10th district, which included the Cape and Islands and south shore coastal towns including Quincy, Weymouth and Hingham, was eliminated as the state lost one district. The ninth district includes the Cape and Islands but does not include Quincy and the surrounding towns, and now includes New Bedford and parts of Fall River.
Cong. William Keating, a Democrat who has represented the Vineyard in the 10th district since 2010, is seeking re-election in the new district. He faces Republican Christopher Sheldon, a Plymouth businessman, and Independent Daniel S. Botelho of Fall River.
In an interview with the Gazette before the primary, Mr. Keating, the former Norfolk County district attorney, state representative and state senator, said his focus is on jobs, and highlighted his success in bringing 10,000 jobs to the district.
He also said he is focused on facing the nation’s debt and cutting military spending. He is in favor of Cape Wind and the Affordable Health Care Act.
“I would say this,” Mr. Keating said. “I’ve had decades of legislative experience. I was the chairman of five committees in the state senate; I authored hundreds of bills. Legislative experience is not new to me . . . it was an easy transition. Already in congress I’m a ranking member.”
Mr. Sheldon, 34, is a self-employed consultant. About two weeks ago he visited the Vineyard to greet voters and give short speeches. He said his focus is jobs and the economy. “Obviously the Vineyard sees a lot of tourists and people that aren’t working can’t be taking vacations,” he said this week.
He said the district shares “the rest of the country’s concerns about debt and the deficit . . . and how that hinders small business as well.”
He emphasized differences he saw between himself and Mr. Keating. “My entire experience is in the private sector; his entire career is as an elected official.
“Right now nobody seems to be doing terribly well, it’s not the direction we want to be going in.”
Mr. Sheldon said he is against Cape Wind and the Affordable Health Care Act.
Mr. Botelho, 34, a first-generation Portuguese-American and business analyst with the Bank of America, is running as an Independent in the race.
He said that in October 2011, when redistricting was announced, he asked himself “What opportunities do we have?” He said his oldest son, 14, was competing with unemployed adults for summer jobs.
“I don’t think these guys get that life outside the D.C. beltway and the I-28 beltway isn’t rosy,” he said. “Real world experience is really what’s needed, and common sense. I’m completely non-partisan,” he added. “It’s just not lip service.”
Mr. Botelho said he’s turned down campaign money that came with conditions, and he is against Cape Wind, though he is in favor of green energy. He cited Cape Wind’s location and concern that it would make electricity rates more expensive.
He said that the Affordable Health Care Act would hurt the middle class.
“I’m asking folks to vote for me, consider me because I’m one of them and I know how hard it’s been. Putting me in is a revolution.”
According to Island town clerks, 13,528 voters are registered, and large numbers of voters have already turned in or requested absentee ballots. A breakdown of the voter registration numbers showed that about half of voters, 52 per cent, are registered as unenrolled, with 37 per cent registered as Democrats. About 10 per cent of voters are registered as Republicans. Less than one per cent of voters are registered with third parties, ranging from Libertarian to Green Rainbow.
Chilmark was the most Democratic town, with 44 per cent registered as Democrats, while Edgartown had the most registered Republicans at 14.5 per cent.
According to OpenSecrets.org, which is run by the Center for Responsive Politics, about $485,121 in political donations came in from Vineyard addresses as of Wednesday.
Chilmark was the most politically generous town, donating almost $183,000, more than a third of the total Island amount.
President Obama gained $169,482 in donations on the Vineyard, with the most donations coming from Chilmark and Aquinnah.
Mr. Romney received about a third of that total: $63,950. More than half of those donations, $33,050, came from Edgartown.
Most Vineyard towns, in total, gave heavily to Democratic candidates and groups. But in Edgartown, Mr. Romney received about twice as much as President Obama with $33,050, and Scott Brown received $8,200 to Elizabeth Warren’s $2,700.
Overall, Ms. Warren received $24,858 to Mr. Brown’s $10,900 from the Island.
Joseph Kennedy 3rd, a Democrat who is running for the fourth district congressional seat, received about $12,500 from Island donors — $10,000 of it came from in Edgartown alone, with one $5,000 donation.
To round out the ballot, 14 people are running for nine seats on the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and five people are running for seven open seats on the Dukes County Commission. Interviews with the candidates appear in today’s edition.
In the race for first district governor’s council, brothers Charles Cipollini, the Republican incumbent, and Oliver P. Cipollini Jr., are vying for the seat.
Running unopposed are state Sen. Daniel Wolf, state Rep. Timothy Madden, clerk of courts Joseph E. Sollitto Jr., and register of deeds Dianne E. Powers.
Voters will also be asked five ballot questions. Ballot question one, the so-called Right to Repair issue, would prohibit car manufacturers, starting in 2015, from selling a vehicle without allowing the owner to have access to the same diagnostic and repair information that is available to state dealers and authorized repair facilities.
Ballot question two, prescribing medication to end life, asks voter whether a licensed physician should be allowed to end a terminally ill patient’s life at the patient’s request. The patient would have to be an adult determined to be mentally capable, diagnosed as having a terminal disease that would cause death within six months, and voluntarily expresses the wish to die.
Ballot question three takes on medicinal marijuana. Voter are asked whether medicinal use of the drug should be allowed to qualifying patients who has certain illnesses and certification from a physician. Questions four and five, nonbinding, ask state legislators to call for a constitutional amendment to limit political spending.
Polling places Tuesday are as follows: the Oak Bluffs public library, the Edgartown town hall, the Chilmark Community Center, the Aquinnah town offices, the West Tisbury public safety building, and in Vineyard Haven the American Legion Hall.