Islanders lined up at the polls today to cast ballots in a presidential election that has riveted and divided the country.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Polling places are Aquinnah town offices, the Chilmark Community Center, the Edgartown town hall, the Oak Bluffs public library, the American Legion Hall in Vineyard Haven, and the West Tisbury public safety building.
The Social Action Committee of the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center is offering rides to the polls. Anyone needing a ride can call Jeri Dantzig at 508-696-0874.
Town clerks are expecting a large turnout.
In addition to state and national races, Vineyard voters will decide on the composition of the Martha's Vineyard Commission, where 14 candidates are running for nine seats, and the Dukes County Commission, where five candidates are running for seven seats. There is one write-in candidate also running.
On Monday on the eve of the election Vineyarders were gearing up. Campaign mailers littered post office recycling bins like autumn leaves, campaign signs dotted the landscape, and the election was a topic of conversation Monday from the YMCA to Alley’s General Store.
Roy Langley, 84, of Edgartown, has voted in every presidential election since he was old enough to vote. “This is an important election, especially for seniors,” Mr. Langley said inside the Edgartown post office Monday afternoon. “There is a lot. It is about Medicare. It is about health care,” he said.
“I am a registered Republican. I am not happy with the Republican candidate. I didn’t vote for Obama in the last election, but I am voting for him now.”
Mr. Langley’s daughter in law Jamie came into the post office carrying her 16-month-old son, Merrill. “This is an important election,” she said. “There is still plenty to do, plenty to clean up the previous eight years, prior to Obama.”
In Oak Bluffs Mike Delis, 52, stood outside the Oak Bluffs post office. “I’ve taken [voting] seriously since day one,” said Mr. Delis, who has voted in every election since he was 18. “If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain.” He said the central issue for him is the economy. “We’re going in the wrong direction,” he said. As a result he said he will be supporting Scott Brown in the U.S. Senate race. “He’s a fantastic candidate. He’s as impartial as they get; he crossed party lines a lot.”
Cliff Meehan, an Edgartown contractor, said: “I am voting. Every vote counts. So Mitt Romney doesn’t win.” Mr. Meehan agreed that the nation is divided. “That is why every vote counts,” he said. “Nothing is getting done in Washington.”
John Moffet agreed. “Voting is absolutely important. It is so close. I know how I am voting. I am well aware of what Mitt Romney brings to the table. We saw him when he was governor of Massachusetts. I am voting for Barack Obama."
Debbie Manley-Smith said she looks forward to the election being over, “So I don’t get anymore of those phone calls at dinner.” She added: “They treat us like we are stupid.”
Floyd Norton, 83, of Edgartown agreed with the frustration but declined to say who he will vote for on Tuesday. “Oh, it is an important election. We need a change,” Mr. Norton said. “We’ve got to stop the gridlock in Washington.”
This election will be the first for Cat Todd, 18, of Oak Bluffs, who said the issue of greatest importance to her is women’s rights.
“Abolishing [funding] for family planning . . . I think that’s pretty bad,” she said.
In West Tisbury, postmaster John Alley was stuffing mailboxes with state voter guides at Alley’s General Store.
“We’re at a juncture where we need to carry on in the right direction and not go off into silliness,” he said. “I could go on about silliness but you don’t want to hear all that.
“It’s an extremely important election and extremely important to return the president to office and bring Elizabeth Warren to the senate,” Mr. Alley said, who promised to “be at the polls with bells on.”
Emily Hall was checking her mail and consulting with Mr. Alley, concerned that her absentee ballot would make it to her home state of Oklahoma.
“I’m the only Democrat in my family,” she said.
Dean Listro, who was getting a bite to eat at 7a Foods, said he also cast his vote early. A former Islander, Mr. Listro now lives in Vermont and voted last week for Mr. Obama.
“I’m not sure we’re going to know who’s going to be our president on Wednesday morning. I really don’t know. It’s anyone’s guess what’s going to happen,” he said.
At Waterside Market on Main street Vineyard Haven, customers ate lunch and talked politics. Regardless of party affiliation, all agreed that they will be relieved to see the election over.
Jennifer Marcus, 42, of West Tisbury, said she will vote for President Obama tomorrow.
“We owe it to our country to vote,” said Ms. Marcus. “Even if I’m not passionate about either candidate, I would vote.”
Like many others, Cinnamon White, 43 of West Tisbury, has not been pleased with campaign rancor.
“I’m sick of the commercials, of all of it,” she said. “It’s time to move on.”
She will be voting for President Obama and said his immigration policies are most important to her.
“Oh, there’s an election?” joked Robert Huebscher, 58 of West Tisbury. “It’s an incredible waste of money,” he said. “Both sides are equally guilty of misrepresenting each other’s positions.” Mr. Huebscher will vote for Mr. Romney because he believes he has an edge when it comes to foreign policy. And he backs Scott Brown. “The only vote in Massachusetts that matters is who to vote for Senator. And that’s Scott Brown,” he said.
Barbara Plesser, 65, of Oak Bluffs, described herself as a “complete wall-to-wall political maniac,” having worked at the Library of Congress for 35 years in Washington, D.C.
“I think Obama has done a fabulous job and I am honored to have him as my President,” she said. “Romney is a complete fraud, as far as I’m concerned.”
For town clerks, voting began well before election day with absentee ballots. In Edgartown, a sign on the town clerk’s door, ready to be closed when needed, reads “voting in progress,” as people have been dropping by to cast absentee ballots in person. Absentee voting ended at noon Monday.
Town clerk Wanda Williams said she had already used more than 400 absentee ballots.
The voting machines have been tested, and Ms. Williams said she’ll spend the day Monday getting the voter list in place.
Under Massachusetts law, those overseas are allowed to email and fax ballots; Ms. Williams said she has received some of these votes as well, from people out of the country and students studying abroad.
Tisbury town clerk Marion Mudge reported similar absentee ballot interest, with over 300 requests this year. “Yes, I would say we’ve been inundated,” she said.
Ms. Mudge said she’s gathering everything she can find for the voting booths; with a long ballot, “[voters] might need to sit, and it’s in fine print,” she said.
Ms. Mudge said the only reason she could imagine a late night Tuesday would be tallying local write-in votes, which have to be hand counted.
One thing Ms. Mudge has learned over the years: avoid elevators. Years ago, when voting took place at town hall, Ms. Mudge was on her way upstairs in the elevator with the ballots when the elevator got stuck.
It was 11 a.m., and voting was at noon. But the elevator ended up stopping six inches away from the floor, so Ms. Mudge was not trapped.
Still, she remembers it as a close call. “I don’t know what we would have done,” she said.