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Clerks see upswing in voter registration as deadline nears

As the deadline for registering to vote nears, officials from many Massachusetts cities and towns say they are seeing a surge in interest, especially among young people.

Election offices will be open until 8 p.m. Wednesday to allow ample time for last-minute registrations — and people have been coming in by the hundreds, a Boston election official said.

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“We’re swamped,” said Gerry Cuddyer, chairwoman of the Board of Election Commissioners in Boston. “It’s wonderful from our perspective.”

Cuddyer said city officials have noticed an increase in young voters, mostly due to active voter-registration campaigns on college campuses.

“Students are hoping to weigh in strongly in this election,” she said, adding that there has been a rise in Latino voters. “There are changing demographics in the city, and as they become part of the fabric of the city, they are interested in its future and the future as a nation.”

Tight races for president and US Senate in Massachusetts are also driving interest, analysts have said. The majority of registrations are for unenrolled, or independent, voters.

Outside Boston, officials also said they are experiencing an uptick in voter registration.

“People are coming in like crazy. I’ve never seen it like this, and I’ve been doing elections for 10 years,” said Richard Reyes, a senior clerk in the election office for the city of Lawrence. He said he and his colleagues have at least 200 forms each on their desks to process. “People have been coming back who haven’t voted in years.”

Reyes noted that his office has received more than 600 applications for absentee ballots, especially from students, and expects that number to reach 800.

Lawrence has nearly 40,000 registered voters and is expecting a 50 percent turnout, similar to that in the 2008 presidential election, said Lawrence City Clerk William Maloney.

In New Bedford, Election Commissioner Maria Tomasia said registration has been nonstop. “We had to add two more people on staff to help with typing and filing,” she said. “We just can’t keep up with it. It’s worse than 2008.”

In Plymouth, officials are expecting their highest-voter registration numbers to date as they approach 39,000, said Laurence Pizer, the town clerk. More than 60 percent of voters are registered as unenrolled, he said.

“As of last Wednesday, we were up to date with our voter registrations, but the pile has hit around 300,” Pizer said. “It’s overwhelming, but in a good way.”

In Wellesley, Town Clerk Kathleen Nagle told a different story. She said registration numbers appeared to be similar to those in the 2004 election.

Her office had received about 30 to 40 voter forms a day for the past few weeks, and most have arrived by mail. She noted that there has been a large number of absentee ballot requests from travelers and college students.

To register, Massachusetts residents who are also US citizens and at least 18 years old can mail in their voter registration form to their local election officials as long as it is postmarked by Wednesday.

The voter registration form is available online to print out in English, Spanish, and Chinese. Residents can also register to vote in person at any election office or registration event within the state, or obtain a form while renewing or applying for a driver’s license.

Those who have moved in the past six months or have not voted for an extended period must reregister in order to vote in November, said Secretary of State William F. Galvin.

“Our first task is to make sure everyone who is entitled to vote can register,” Galvin said. “If you have any doubt, call your local office to verify voter status.”

Sarah N. Mattero can be reached at sarah.mattero@
globe.com
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