High voter turnout expected Sept. 6

by Town Reminder

Special election for Selectboard paired with primary a factor

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY – A high voter turnout is expected for next Thursday’s Special Town election coupled with the State Primary. Town Clerk/Treasurer Carlene C. Hamlin anticipates between 20 and 25 percent of registered voters to participate.
“It’s exciting,” she said of the local election buzz around town. Most communities, she said, are expecting a low voter turnout. South Hadley, however, has a double election with a contested race because of the need to fill a Selectboard seat vacated by Bruce MacCullagh. This will most likely drive residents to cast their votes Thursday, Sept. 6.
“I’m sure we’re seeing an increase in voter participation,” said Hamlin.
Three residents are running to fill the remaining seven months of MacCullagh’s term: Ira Brezinsky, Sarah Etelman and Paul Mihalak. Hamlin said the last time there was so much hype surrounding a town election was in April of 2008 during the annual town election where three candidates were running for a Selectboard seat, three running for the School Committee and for the Charter Commission. A 27 percent voter turnout was recorded for that election. South Hadley’s most recent election, in March of this year, drew a 24 percent voter turnout, an increase from the 2011 town election.
A challenge this year during the voting process will be working around the half-day students at South Hadley High School will be attending. Hamlin advises residents to take into account the half-day release time and avoid voting between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. when school is in session. However, the school’s cafeterias and gym will be open and the school will accommodate voters at those times. School activities have been suspended in the cafeteria for the entire day and gym periods have been scheduled to be held outdoors or turned into a study period in the event of inclement weather.
Campaign workers are advised to not park at the high school so as to not interfere with student drop-off and dismissal via bus or vehicle. “They should find alternative places to park,” said Hamlin. There will not be a Community Fair held during Thursday’s double election as in years past because Hamiln said the change of election day to a Thursday is throwing people off. But, one will certainly be held during the Presidential Election in November. School will not be in session during that day.
South Hadley High School remains as the single polling location for all five precincts. The move by Hamlin to centralize the polling locations occurred nearly two years ago and has become a model for the Secretary of State’s Election Division. The Division has visited the South Hadley polling location in the past to learn from the set-up.
Precincts A and B will vote in cafeteria 1. Precinct C will vote in cafeteria 2. Precincts D and E will vote in the gymnasium. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. To determine in which precinct to vote, visit http://www.southhadley.org/Pages/SouthHadleyMA_Clerk/streetlist/2010index or contact the Town Clerk’s office by calling (413) 538-5017 ext 115.