HARVARD — A record number of voters turned out at the polls to have their voices heard, so to speak. Nearly 90 percent of the registered voters in town not only voted on the candidates for president, vice president and state offices such as senator and representatives, but stated their other choices on five Nov. 4 election ballot questions.
“This is definitely the highest number of voters we’ve seen,” town clerk Janet Vellante said. “The last presidential election there was an 84.7 percent turnout.”
Out of the 3,887 registered voters in town, 3,471 went to the polls on Tuesday, for a whopping 89.3 percent turnout.
The town also had a record number of absentee ballots, with 475.
“Fifty of them were not returned,” Vellante said. “But with the people that are out of the country, they have 10 extra days as long as they were postmarked on or before the actual election day. It’s still 100 more than we have ever had.”
The first three ballot questions –all brought by initiative petition– were on every ballot in the state, but Question 4 was specific to Harvard.
Deemed the Alcohol Question, it asked the voters to decide if licenses will continue to be granted for the sale of alcoholic beverages by restaurants and function rooms with a seating capacity of at least 100 people.
In a landslide, the question passed 2,817 to 542.
Town administrator Timothy Bragan had told the Board of Selectmen at their Nov. 4 meeting he expected to have the license renewal from Fruitlands Museum on the next day after the question had passed and a public hearing would have to be scheduled to reissue the license.
Within two minutes of Bragan’s comments, secretary Ashley Butler announced the question had indeed passed.
“I’m suggesting you do not have that public hearing on a regularly scheduled selectmen’s meeting,” Bragen said. “I think it will be a long discussion and could last at least a couple of nights.”
Selectmen agreed to post a public hearing for Dec. 9 for the license renewal.
“(Fruitlands) will need to understand this will not be one meeting,” Chairman Leo Blair said. “I think it will be two or three, at least.”
The passing of Question 4 officially ends the town’s status of being a “dry town.” The Nov. 4 vote was the third and final vote needed to overturn the alcohol-free status.
The voters also passed the non-binding referendum to instruct the district’s state representative to vote in favor of legislation that would distribute $450 million from the state’s “rainy day” stabilization fund to the cities and towns, with a count of 2,049 in favor of the referendum and 1,027 opposed.