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Rare Sept Primary Voting Patterns Likely To Repeat in Presidential Election

New Volunteers to Assist at Polls and Tabulating Results; Preliminary Election Results May be Ready by late night Nov. 3
by Robert Stewart
The Sep. 1 Primary Election is over but the voting patterns that emerged from that election are not only likely to be repeated during the Presidential Election on Nov. 3 but significantly magnified because of an expected heavy voter turnout that will more than double what the town experienced on Sep. 1.
     Town Clerk Mike Bouchard said the final tally from the Primary Election showed that 3,374 voters cast a ballot, that is 40 percent of the 8,561 registered voters in town. Bouchard noted that historically 80 to 85 percent of registered voters in town vote in a Presidential Election.
     Given that historical trend and the expected heightened interest in this year’s Presidential Election, Bouchard believes that more than 7,000 voters will cast a ballot on Nov. 3.
     In the September Primary Election, Bouchard expected a higher than usual turnout but was somewhat surprised that the turnout exceeded predictions. He noted that historically a high turnout in a primary election in Groton would be in the 25 to 30 percent range and that a 40 percent turnout was rare.
     Bouchard explained the higher than usual turnout as the desire of many voters to vote by mail. In the Sep. 1 Primary, 1,630 voters or 39 percent of those who voted went to the polls in person on Election Day to cast their ballots. By comparison, 2,065 voters or 61 percent of those who voted cast their ballots either through the mail or by early in-person voting. Bouchard noted that of those voting early 1,830 did so by mail and 235 voted in-person during the early voting period.
     The voting patterns in Groton’s three precincts followed historic trends in the Primary Election where Precincts One (West Groton) and Precinct Three (Groton Center) recorded the largest turnouts and Precinct Two (Lost Lake) recorded the lowest turnout. What was different about this election was that voter turnout in Precinct Two was nearly equal to Precincts One and Three. Precinct One had a 40 percent turnout rate and Precinct Three had a 41 percent turnout rate. Historically, Precinct Two would have a turnout rate of five to 10 percentage points behind the other two precincts. However, in the Primary Election Precinct Two had a turnout rate of 38 percent – nearly equal to that of other two precincts.
     The early vote and the in- person vote was also nearly equal among the three precincts. The mail in or early vote in Precinct One was 61 percent, 65 percent in Precinct Three and 58 percent in Precinct Two. The in person vote at the polls on Election Day was 39 percent in Precinct One, 35 percent in Precinct Three and 42 percent in Precinct Two. Bouchard expects those percentages to be repeated in the Presidential Election on Nov. 3 and perhaps to record a heavier mail in vote, With voter turnout at the Nov. 3 Presidential Election expected to be at least double that of the September Primary, Bouchard indicated that the lessons learned from the Primary Election experience will be invaluable in the November Election. He indicated that there have been a fair number of residents who have volunteered for the Nov. Election and with the additional people who assisted in the Primary Election, his office will be adequately staffed for the November Election.         “With the heavy turnout with vote by mail, we have additional staffing requirements to mail and process ballots by mail. A mailed ballot requires additional record keeping and process controls. Fortunately, we had some excellent help from volunteers in the September Election which I think we can capitalize on the collective learning experience and supplement for November,” Bouchard said.
     Bouchard added that while there will be some challenges tabulating the vote on Nov. 3, he believes the results for Groton will be known that evening. With the experience of the September Election, additional assistance from volunteers, and the use of an advanced processing machine, the results should be known sometime that night. The Town Clerk’s Office has to account for equipment, cast and uncast ballots by mail and other reconciliation procedures before compiling preliminary results.
     Bouchard noted that under temporary election legislation, the town was able to use an Advanced Processing option for early ballots. This option allows the town to process early ballots prior to Election Day but no results could be announced until Election Day. Bouchard said using this option will significantly reduce the burden of tabulating results and completing reconciliation procedures.
     Bouchard said his office should receive state ballots soon but he plans to mail the ballots to residents by late September
or early October. Voters who requested mail in ballots for the September Primary also requested ballots for the November Election. In addition, there are voters who requested mail in ballots for only the November election. Bouchard stated, “We’re still receiving applications.”
     Bouchard urged those voters who plan to vote by mail to return them as soon as possible either through the U. S. Postal Service or through a drop box at the rear of Town Hall. Early voting in- person will occur over a two-week period from Oct. 17 to Oct. 30. For the November Election only, the polling location for Precincts Two and Three will be at Middle School North on Main St.
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