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Record voter turnout expected in Massachusetts

As officials prepare for Tuesday’s election, William F. ­Galvin, secretary of the ­Commonwealth, said he is predicting record voter turnout, and warned that several issues, including an “inactive” voter list, could lead to longer waiting times.

Galvin said he expects state voters to number up to 3.2 million Tuesday, which would surpass the previous record turnout set in the last presidential election in 2008.

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“I see the number of absentees has gone up, which is usually the leading indicator of ­interest or participation, so that would make me think it is going to reach the ’08 number or perhaps exceed it,’’ Galvin said during a press conference ­Monday at the State House.

There were 260,163 applications for absentee ballots in 2008, and this year 284,789 were requested. In 2008, 3.1 million people cast votes in Massachusetts.

With more money than ever pouring into a tightly contested US Senate race and with a presidential contest virtually tied in national polls, Galvin said his office has met with representatives of the “right and left” to discuss ground rules at polling sites. He also said that observers from his office will closely watch polling places in ­Lawrence, where there have been allegations of voter fraud.

“Because of the intensity of this election, especially the United States Senate race here in Massachusetts, and the ­active interests of the campaign organizations which has been demonstrated to our citizens very thoroughly in the last few weeks, we are particularly concerned about conduct in the election polling places,” Galvin said. “We want to make sure that no voters’ rights are ­impinged upon by campaign organizations, or groups who are interested in one aspect of the election or another.”

Galvin said his office has ­reiterated the 150 foot no-
campaigning buffer around polling locations and said any interference inside polling places by observers from either party will not be tolerated.

Observers will be roving through other cities and towns through the day, said Brian ­McNiff, spokesman for the secretary’s office.

Polls across the state will be open from 7 a.m.until 8 p.m. Tuesday, though some will open as early as 6 a.m., Galvin said.

The state requires that polls be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., but while the closing time cannot be extended, the starting time can be earlier. There are 20 cities and towns that will open polling places before 7 a.m., including Medford, ­Burlington, Dover, Duxbury, Easton, Foxboro, Franklin, ­Hanover, Holden, Mashpee, and Stoneham among them.

Galvin also spoke Monday about several issues that could potentially result in longer waiting times at the polls.

Residents who have previously registered to vote but have not responded to census questionnaires and have not voted in recent years may find themselves on the inactive list. Galvin said those inactive voters will be allowed to cast ballots, but must fill out an affidavit of continuous residency and show identification.

As a result of the 2010 Census, multilingual ballots will be available for the first time in a general election in six additional communities, including Quincy, Worcester, and Lowell. Prior to 2010, multilingual ballots were issued in Boston, Chelsea, Holyoke, Lawrence, Southbridge, and Springfield.

Galvin said the secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts website contains a complete and detailed list of all voting locations, with directions and a preview of actual ballots in specific cities and towns. The ballots include all local races and ballot questions, as well as three statewide ballot questions.

“We certainly hope . . . people will come to polls knowing exactly what they want to do,” Galvin said.

Galvin also addressed two ­issues from the 2000 election, issues some specialists say are possibilities in this year’s race.

Asked whether there might be demands for a recount, he responded, “I fervently pray no.”

And when asked whether one presidential candidate might win the Electoral College but not the popular vote, he said, “Some people have speculated that will happen again ­tomorrow.”

Brian Ballou can be reached at bballou@globe.com.
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