As Groton goes, so goes the commonwealth, in its voting


GROTON — After one of the most hotly contested presidential races in the country’s history — resulting in some of the highest voter turnouts ever — Groton joined the majority of Americans in repudiating eight years of Republican leadership in favor of an untried single-term senator promising hope and change.

Of 7,233 registered voters in town, 6,124 showed up at the town’s three precincts and chose to elect Democratic candidate Barack Obama and his running mate Joseph Biden over that of challenger Sen. John McCain and his vice-presidential choice, Sarah Palin, by a vote of 3,438 to 2,437.

Although voters had many different reasons for casting their ballots, all seemed to grasp the historic nature of the election.

“I came out to vote today because I felt it was a historic moment,” Melinda Green said. “It feels like we’re on the verge of something great. I’m proud of our country and both candidates for president are good people and worthy of the office.”

“This vote for the presidency is a historic one but I would absolutely be here to vote even if it wasn’t,” Kyle Berlin declared. “My children in college also voted for the first time and had to do it by mail.”

“This was my first time voting and I was exercising my right,” said Leonard Francis, a newly naturalized citizen. “I wanted to help the democratic process along by giving the election proper thought and judgment.”

“I came out because of the importance of this election,” said long-time resident Earl Carter. “This country has two ways it can go and it will be in a world of trouble if it doesn’t go the right way.”

“I came out to vote for the winners McCain and Hargraves,” said an unabashed Rich Lewis, whose predictions were half-right.

With 85 percent of the town’s registered voters showing up, the election was possibly the highest turnout ever.

“More people came out to vote by 9 a.m. than showed up at both the recent state primaries and special election combined,” town clerk Michael Bouchard said of the Nov. 4 election. “At least 70 people were lined up to vote before 7 a.m.” when the polls opened.

Bouchard said that although voting on Tuesday was some of the heaviest in the town’s history, some minor “reconfiguring” of the physical layout of the town’s polling places, as well as the use of “greeters” at the entrances, prevented any logjams or long waits.

However, the campaign for President of the United States was not the only race featured on Tuesday’s ballot. Also included were state and local races including one of Massachusetts’ two United States senators and a representative in Congress, as well as state senator and representative.

In the federal races, incumbent Democrat John Kerry handily defeated Republican challenger Jeffrey Beatty by a vote of 3,383 to 2,313 in Groton. Libertarian Robert Underwood received 199 votes.

Running unopposed, Democratic U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, who only recently won her seat after its former occupant, Marty Meehan, resigned to take a post at UMass-Lowell, won it in her own right with 4,481 votes and 1,519 left blank.

On the state level, incumbent Democratic state Sen. Steven Panagiotakos, running unopposed, received 4,303 votes with 1,758 left blank.

In other state races, incumbent Republican Rep. Robert Hargraves overcame a challenge by former selectman Democrat Virginia Wood by a vote of 3,085 to 2,526 in town. Zachary Saboliauskas of Pepperell, running as an independent, received 308 votes.

Running unopposed, too, was Democrat Marilyn Devaney for councilor for the 3rd District, who garnered 3,883 votes with 2,179 blanks.

Democrat Tara DeCristofaro won re-election as Middlesex County’s register of probate with a vote of 3,876 with 2,188 votes left blank.

Also considered by voters were a number of ballot questions including one that if passed, would have eliminated the state’s income tax. Fiercely opposed by many segments of the population, the measure went down in defeat by a vote of 3,689 to 2,214.

“I came out to vote because I thought it was important,” resident Dan Gilmore said. “But as important as the presidential race is, there were other ballot issues, specifically the income tax issue. That was an important one to consider because if passed, it could effect the financial viability of the state.”

Similarly, a question asking voters if they would like to see criminal penalties reduced for the possession of small amounts of marijuana won by a vote of 4,114 to 1,837. A second question, asking whether people with a physician’s recommendation should be allowed to grow and use marijuana for medicinal purposes, also passed with a vote of 4,293 to 1,333.

A fourth question that would outlaw dog racing in the state passed by a vote of 3,603 to 2,261 in town. The measure faced a similar defeat at the state level.