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Belmont ready if Mitt Romney votes

Traffic problems were seen in past

BELMONT — If Mitt ­Romney votes at his hometown precinct, Belmont will be ready.

On Tuesday night, Police Chief Richard McLaughlin and Assistant Chief James MacIsaac presented their plans for working with the crush of media and security that follows the Republican presidential candidate, if he votes Election Day at the Beech Street Center.

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They offered the details to about 30 residents gathered at the center.

“Whatever you believe or not, whatever your political affiliation is, I don’t see this as a bad thing for our town,” said McLaughlin.

“He has every right to vote here as I do, as you do. And we’re going to do this, and we’re going to make it as normal as we can, so that everybody can enjoy their rights,” he said.

Romney’s campaign has not told the town whether he will be voting in Belmont, according to police.

The campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Romney voted at the center during the primaries, and the chaos of reporters, news trucks, and security brought traffic to a standstill.

The town has since learned from its mistakes, said MacIsaac.

Unless police hear before Tuesday that Romney will not vote in Belmont, they will begin closing streets and putting up no-parking signs Monday night on some roads around the center.

Residents will still be allowed to pass through, they said.

On Tuesday, Waverley Street from Beech Street to Harris Street will be closed to traffic.

There will be reserved areas for members of the media and voters.

Cars parked illegally will be towed, said MacIsaac, and police will have extra personnel on hand to keep things moving.

Police said their plan would keep residents safe and allow voting to run smoothly, but they expect to have to “adapt, improvise, and overcome” on Election Day.

“I do want you to understand,” said MacIsaac, loosely quoting President Eisenhower. “Plans are great and they’re an absolute necessity, but when the battle starts, they go to hell.”

Residents were concerned that the glut of media vehicles would block their roads, and the commotion of Romney’s presence would keep them from voting.

“I don’t want to be held back from the polls just because some great politician is coming here to vote,” said one voter who declined to provide his name.

“Voting is a Walt Whitman moment. You hear America singing,” said Sharon Sokol, who lives on Waverley Street with her husband.

“It’s the only opportunity you have every four years, when people from different walks of life show up and you’re doing the same thing at the same time.”

It would be a shame, she said, if Romney’s appearance made voting difficult.

Sokol said she is epileptic and worries that the flashing lights from all the extra security could trigger a seizure. Romney, she said, should consider voting early by absentee ballot.

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com.
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