Martha’s Vineyard and Gosnold voters finally had the chance Tuesday to write their own chapter in a historic 2020 presidential election that has left an entire country on edge, turning out in massive numbers to resoundingly back Vice President Joseph Biden in his bid to unseat President Donald Trump.

And in a hotly-contested local race down the ballot, Island voters chose Clarence A. (Trip) Barnes 3rd and Ben Robinson from Tisbury for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. Voters also strongly defeated an attempt by the Dukes County Commission to change its county treasurer position from elected to appointed, and narrowly backed a ranked-choice voting initiative, even as the state soundly rejected it.

The election, four years in the making, arrived amid a whirlwind of uncertainty and confusion on the Island, with coronavirus case numbers surging locally for the first time and the pandemic complicating the centuries-old democratic tradition of in-person voting. And while a disorienting mixture of local worry and national unease came to a head on election day Tuesday, it also galvanized the Vineyard electorate.

More than 60 per cent of the Island either voted early or by mail this year. And after all in-person, early and absentee ballots were counted by the Island’s six tireless town clerks and army of masked poll workers late Tuesday, overall turnout was around 78 per cent. A total of 12,680 voters cast ballots in the election, breaking a record and mirroring a state and national trend that showed close to the highest voter turnout in nearly a century.

“I can say this is the most important election there has ever been,” said Oak Bluffs voter John Bunker, who arrived at the polls Tuesday with an oxygen tank in tow. “I had my ballot, and I was ready to mail it in. But something just told me, no, I’ve got to go to the polls to make it official . . . I’ve got to vote.”

After a long day at the polls that saw steady voter turnout from dawn until dusk, Aquinnah, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and West Tisbury had all turned in unofficial results by 10:30 p.m. Chilmark submitted its final results just after midnight. Chilmark and Aquinnah still count ballots by hand.

The only contested local race on the ballot was a three-way battle for two elected seats from Tisbury on the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. While Mr. Barnes maintained a steady lead throughout the night for the town’s first seat on the commission, garnering 7,842 votes, Mr. Robinson was able to pull away from Mr. Goldstein in Chilmark and Aquinnah after running nearly dead even in the down-Island towns.

The final unofficial tally from Tuesday night was 5,974 votes for Mr. Robinson

and 5,911 for Mr. Goldstein, giving him a 63-vote margin of victory. Meanwhile, Mr. Barnes was the top vote-getter by far in the MVC race.

Also elected to the commission were: Christina Brown (Edgartown), Fred Hancock (Oak Bluffs), E. Douglas Sederholm (West Tisbury), Linda Sibley (West Tisbury), James Vercruysse (Aquinnah) and Jeffrey Agnoli (Edgartown). No one was on the ballot from Chilmark, but write-in candidate Jay Grossman appears to have won the seat with 47 votes.

Elected commissioners take their positions after the start of the new year.

Voters soundly defeated ballot Question 3, rejecting an attempt by the Dukes County Commission to change the county treasurer position from elected to appointed. The sleeper question generated debate and interest on all sides in the weeks before the election, with the former county treasurer campaigning vocally against it, and even the county commission itself divided.

The question failed 55 to 45 per cent county-wide. It saw more support in up-Island towns than in down-Island ones, with both Aquinnah and Chilmark recording more “yes” than “no” votes. All other towns voted against Question 3.

At a county commission meeting held one day after the election, the result of the question did not come up for discussion among the commissioners. When asked by the Gazette about the result, commissioner Keith Chatinover, who advocated for the measure, said he was encouraged by the outcome, and praised the competency of the board.

“I thought it would lose by a much greater margin,” Mr. Chatinover said.

County treasurer Ann Metcalf, who was running unopposed, was easily elected to a six-year term with 8,780 votes county-wide.

Seven candidates who were running unopposed for the Dukes County Commission were also elected: Leon Brathwaite, John Cahill, Mr. Chatinover, Tristan Israel, Christine Todd, Don Leopold and Richard Wharton.

Voters joined the rest of the state in strongly backing ballot Question 1, which involved the right to repair for mechanics, and narrowly favored ranked choice voting, which was defeated statewide.

In the historic and divisive presidential election, Vineyard towns and Gosnold went for Mr. Biden at a rate of nearly four to one. Mr. Biden received 9,763 votes in Dukes County, accounting for 78 per cent of the vote, compared to 2,610 votes for Mr. Trump. Although all counties in the state went for Mr. Biden, Dukes did so at nearly the highest rate — second only to Suffolk.

Mr. Biden ran the strongest in West Tisbury, where he captured 1,942 votes to President Trump’s 330. He also captured votes at a nearly 10-to-one margin in Aquinnah, and by a seven-to-one margin in Chilmark. In Oak Bluffs, Mr. Biden won by a count of 2401 to 728, and in Tisbury by 2,156 to 527. His worst result was in Edgartown, where he won 2,126 votes to Mr. Trump’s 841.

In other state and national contests, voters added their strong support to incumbent Democratic Sen. Edward Markey over his Republican challenger, Kevin J. O’Connor, along with U.S. Rep. Bill Keating, who had two challengers, and state Sen. Julian Cyr, and Rep. Dylan Fernandes, who were running unopposed.

Although the Island broke a record for the number of total ballots cast in 2020, the 78 per cent voter turnout was only slightly up from 2016 (77 per cent) and just below 2012 (80 per cent).

Part of the turnout numbers are explained by a large increase in the number of registered voters on the Island over the past decade, with both Edgartown and Oak Bluffs eclipsing 4,000 registered voters for the first time this election cycle.

Total voter registration for Dukes County as of Oct. 24 was 16,242, according to the Secretary of State’s office. (The Secretary of the State includes inactive voters, accounting for a slightly higher voter registration figure than reported by town clerks.)

Town clerks navigated the changing electoral landscape throughout the past month, counting more than 7,000 mail-in ballots, a first, and handling a voting process altered by the pandemic. Masks, hand sanitizer and six-foot social distancing created long lines and a full-day of vote counting, with clerks forced to use every free moment to tabulate mail-in ballots.

The process went smoothly across the Island. And even in Oak Bluffs, where one of the tabulating machines died just after lunch, a quick assist from West Tisbury provided backup.

“[They] saved the day,” Oak Bluffs town clerk Colleen Morris said.

With the sun long set in Oak Bluffs, Ms. Morris declared the polls closed at 8 p.m., submitting her own ballot as the last one of the evening. Despite the long day, Ms. Morris said she didn’t want it to end.

“This is what we do,” the clerk said.

At the polls Tuesday, voters were happy at the chance to have their own voices heard, and hoped the country at large would be able to do the same soon enough.

“I would like to see a nation brought back together,” West Tisbury voter Cynthia Riggs said.

Most Islanders agreed.

Town-by-town election results.

Election day pictures.

Bill Eville, Aaron Wilson, Maia Coleman and Louisa Hufstader contributed reporting.