Massachusetts voters hit the polls Tuesday with high enthusiasm, packing lines at some polling stations an hour before they opened, reflecting the historic presidential campaign that played out during a pandemic and concerns that the outcome could lead to violence.
By 9 a.m., Boston’s Election Department reported that 42,336 people had voted during the first two hours polls were open.
Sarah Terrero, 37, brought her two children to the Word of Life Tabernacle Church in Roxbury to cast her ballot in person.
“As a black Dominican and American, I’m doing it for myself, my people, my children,” said Terrero, a supporter of Democrat Joe Biden. “We definitely need change, especially in the middle of this pandemic, where so many of my people, low-income people, are suffering.”
Terrero said she decided to vote in person because it was the surest way to guarantee her vote was counted. Her children, ages 9 and 7, played hand games next to her as they waited in line.
“I wanted to show them what democracy feels like,” she said.
“You’re gonna vote today?” a poll worker asked the kids when they got to the front of the line.
“We want to, but we’re not allowed to,” Terrero’s nine-year-old daughter said. “We’re not old enough.”
Inside the church lobby, voters stood six feet apart. Lorraine Williams, 21, pushed a stroller and applied some hand sanitizer; her one-year-old daughter rubbed her hands together until she got some too.
Williams said she was anxious about “who’s going to be President and how people are going to react to who’s going to be President.”
People had been flooding into the polling place all morning, said Rev. Samuel Darden, pastor of the church.
“Compared to September — September was nothing, just a breeze,” he said of the primaries.
Some in line who planned to vote for Biden said they weren’t particularly excited, but were there to do it nonetheless.
“I’m trying to have some hope with them,” said Ifé Franklin, 60, an artist and activist. “I’m going with them so we can go back to the old racism...so where is that keeping me?”
In the South End, voters lined up early Tuesday morning outside Cathedral High School waiting for their opportunity to express their choice for the next president as well as key state offices, including US Senator Edward Markey, a Democrat seeking reelection. And in Dorchester’s Lower Mills neighborhood, dozens were already in line before the polling place opened.
The suburbs were active too.
In Georgetown, a town north of Boston with a population about 8,500, an election official reported 3,000 of 6,800 registered voters had either voted by mail or in early voting, and another 1,000 already had voted in person at the Penn Brook School by 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.
A small line was formed and social-distanced while a young man in the military sorted out his registration; otherwise, voting took about 3 minutes. Hilary Clinton beat President Trump in Georgetown in 2016, 46.7 percent to 45.6 percent.
At the West Somerville Neighborhood School, lines were small and moved quickly. Poll workers instructed voters to keep their pens so they wouldn’t have to be sanitized. Hand sanitizer bottles dotted the room, and no “I Voted” stickers were distributed due to the pandemic.
“No stickers?” a man with a red bandana on his face asked, disappointed.
“Not this year,” a poll worker replied.
Marina Febles, 40, brought her two daughters, aged 8 and 13, to help her cast her ballot, since she’s still learning English and they speak it fluently.
“I feel good -- happy,” she said in Spanish, after voting for a “presidential change” with the pandemic weighing heavy on her mind. “We’re going to see what God wants with us.”
Jayne Noel, 29, a Marriott hotel receptionist, said it felt good to vote, even though her Election Day vote this year felt last-minute, as many others had already cast ballots through the mail or in early voting. She said she was a bit anxious about the results, though she declined to say who she supported.
“Let’s just wait for tonight and see what happens,” she said. “We’re all waiting.”
Jane Provost, 23, who works at an apparel start-up, said she was nervous about the elections results too. She read about the Bush v. Gore contested election in 2000 and hoped this race didn’t result in similar chaos, or worse.
She voted for Biden, but wasn’t thrilled about him — “he’s, like, really old” — but she was excited about his running mate.
“I really like Kamala,” Provost said. “It’d be exciting to have a woman vice president.”
In Provincetown, Acting Town Clerk Ana Ruiz estimated half the town’s voters had already cast their ballots by early Tuesday afternoon. “Now we are just waiting for the second half,'' she said. “When we opened there was a line, but now it’s just really steady. We haven’t had a minute or two just to relax.”
The auditorium at town hall is the polling place, she said. And there have been no reports of any electronic voting machines failing – because the Cape Cod town does not use them.
"We use a paper ballot, so everything works,'' she said with a chuckle. “We are good.”
Votes will be tallied starting Tuesday night, a process that she expects can take until 1 a.m or 2 a.m. to complete.
There was also high interest in Barnstable, where an employee at the town clerk’s office said shortly before 1 p.m. that the phone “has not stopped ringing” with people seeking information on their correct polling locations.
And in New Bedford, things were good.
“No issues at any locations,” said an e-mail message from the city’s Election Commission shortly after 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. “Very busy compared to other elections.”
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh told reporters after casting his ballot Tuesday that some residents could face long waits but urged them to ride it out.
“This is the most important election of my lifetime, of many people’s lifetime right now, on what direction the country’s going to go,” Walsh said, per a video clip posted to WBZ-TV. “The commitment of people being here at 6 in the morning and standing in line is really important. I’m going to ask people too today as you’re voting, you’re going to see long lines. And it might be an hour wait, but I’m asking you to wait in those lines.”
An estimated 1.3 million people are expected to vote on Tuesday in Massachusetts in addition to 2.3 million who already have voted using mail-in ballots or early voting, according to Secretary of State William Galvin, who said he expects 300,000 more votes to be cast this year than were cast in 2016.
Galvin’s spokeswoman said via email around 12:20 p.m. that the state hadn’t seen any issues Tuesday related to election security.
Polls in Massachusetts stay open until 8 p.m. Anyone in line at 8 p.m. will still be able to cast their vote, officials said.
The Elections Division of Galvin’s office added Tuesday morning via Twitter that at this point, voting in person is the best way to ensure your vote is counted.
“We STRONGLY discourage mailing ballots today,” the division wrote. “Ballots can only be counted if they’re postmarked by today and received by 5 p.m. Friday. There’s no guarantee that will happen if you mail your ballot today.”
If you're returning your ballot today, bring it to your local election office or a drop box in your city or town by 8 p.m.— Mass. Elections (@VotingInMass) November 3, 2020
Otherwise, you may vote in person at your polling place until 8 p.m.
At the George Dilboy VFW Post in Somerville, a line of about 30 people formed by 7:10 a.m. Volunteers brought warm smiles to the otherwise chilly morning and kept the line moving at a quick pace. By 8 a.m., the line of early risers had disappeared, with new arrivals able to walk straight into the polling place.
By 7 a.m. a line of about 100 people had gathered to wait for the polls to open at the Codman Square Wellness & Fitness Center on Washington Street in Dorchester, huddling together as an unexpected dash of sleet fell down on them. The line, while stretched out due to social distancing, moved quickly, and voters were able to cast their ballots in about a half hour.
The campaign between President Trump, a Republican, and former vice president Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, has been marked by sporadic violence across the country.
On Monday, Governor Charlie Baker activated as many as 1,000 members of the National Guard in case local officials need help to “maintain public safety or protect opportunities to exercise First Amendment rights during large scale events,” Baker’s administration said.
Mid-morning in deep-blue Cambridge brought a slow trickle of masked voters into the basketball gym at Moses Youth Center to cast their ballots.
Ellie Ash, a 24-year-old research assistant, voted for Biden and called Trump racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic. She said he hasn’t made the environment a priority, a particular sticking point for her.
“I think he’s a distraction from important causes,” she said. “Down with the orange man.”
Globe staffers Dasia Moore, Janelle Nanos, Liz Kowalczyk, Marcia Dick, Travis Andersen, Danny McDonald and Christine Morris contributed to this report. Material from prior Globe stories also was used.
This is a developing story and will be updated as new information become available.
John R. Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe. Naomi Martin can be reached at email@example.com. Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.