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Epic election for president brings voters to the polls

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AYER — In April, just under 20 percent of registered voters turned out to elect their town officials. It was a completely different story for the Nov. 4 election.

Nearly 75 percent cast their votes for candidates for president, vice president, state offices such as senator and representative, along with deciding four questions on the ballot.

Out of the 4,537 registered voters, 3,394 made their way to Town Hall during the day.

“By 11 a.m., we had well over 1,000 votes in,” Selectman Richard Gilles said. “Typically in the morning we’d have less than 400.”

By 3:30 p.m., the count was up to 2,097 which means more than 1,100 additional voters cast their ballots before the 8 p.m. closure.

Voter Jennifer Watson said she thinks the turnout is great.

“I think everyone is having a hard time right now,” she said. “People want change. Whatever that change is to them personally, their desire for change has sent them to the polls.”

Voter Shawn Hall said he has only missed one presidential election since he was old enough to vote.

“I didn’t vote Bush in in 2004,” he said. “But other than that, I hadn’t missed a presidential election.”

President-elect Barack Obama beat John McCain in Ayer by just under 500 votes, 1,895 to 1,397. Supports of Hillary Clinton and Ron Paul showed their support by giving each former candidate eight votes each.

Without naming who he voted for, Hall did comment on Question 1, the initiative to reduce state income tax to 2.65 percent by 2009 and eliminate it entirely the following year.

“Definitely, get rid of it,” he said. “I think people need the money, with the current state of the economy.”

Watson said although she thought the initiative was a good idea, she didn’t see any other benefits because the Legislature would seek alternative ways to raise money.

The initiative failed in Ayer, on a count of 2,069 to 1,232.

Town voters passed the other three initiative petitions: Replace criminal penalties for possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana with a new system of civil penalties; end greyhound racing in the state; and to direct the district’s state representative to vote in favor of legislation that would allow seriously ill patients, with their doctor’s written recommendation, to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana for their personal medical use.