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Berkshire Voters Taking Advantage Of Early Primary Voting

Early voting in the March 3rd Massachusetts primary began this morning, and Berkshire County voters were ready.

In Pittsfield, Massachusetts, participation in the 2020 election began bright and early Monday morning.

“We had people waiting at the door when we got here this morning. We’ve processed probably 20 ballots in the past hour," said Pittsfield City Clerk Michele Benjamin.

Registered voters in the Berkshire community of around 43,000 need only come to the registrar of voters’ office at city hall and give their name and address to the staff.

“If you are not registered in a party, then we’ll ask you what party ballot you would like," Benjamin told WAMC. "We have samples on the board and on the wall. You’ll tell us what party you would like, we’ll put you in the computer, verify that you’re here to early vote. We’ll give you your ballot and your envelope. On the envelope, you just have to fill out your name and address and check what party ballot you’re taking. Then you’ll take your ballot, go out into the hall where we have booths set up. You can vote, and then bring your ballot back in, place it in the envelope, and you’ve voted!”

The Republican, Democratic, Green Rainbow and Libertarian parties are all holding primaries.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is on the Democratic ballot, while former Governor Bill Weld is on the Republican ballot. Former Governor Deval Patrick appears on the Democratic slate, but he dropped out of the race February 12.

While she says she expects the November general election to exceed her turnout expectations more than the primary, Benjamin says the Monday morning numbers have impressed her.

“So it was more than I expected, but I think once the residents are aware that there is early voting all this week from 8:30 until 4, we’ll see higher traffic coming through,” said the clerk.

For Pittsfielder Lillian Ketcham, early voting is a simple convenience.

“Just to get it over with! I made my mind up, so I decided to get here and do it,” she told WAMC.

She came with her friend Mary Reilly, who had a more pressing reason to vote early.

“Cause I’ll be going out of town!" Reilly told WAMC. "I’m leaving, I won’t be here to vote. I want to make sure I get it in.”

Reilly exhorted others in her situation to follow her lead.

“You’ve got to get your vote in, it has to count," she said. "Every vote counts, and it’s important that we do it. So if you’re going to be out of town, get here and vote!”

20 miles south in Great Barrington, town clerk Jennifer Messina says early voting has been brisk in the community of around 7,000.

“It’s been busy today,” Messina told WAMC.

She says the turnout has surpassed her expectations for a primary.

“Between trying to do absentee and early voting, I cannot even begin to estimate how many have been here,” she said.

In hilly Windsor – a town in the county’s Northeastern corner of just under a thousand residents – clerk Madeline Scully says early voting accounts for upwards of 10% of the total turnout.

“Early voting is Monday night, tonight, from 5 to 7, and then Tuesday [and] Thursday from 10 to 2," Scully told WAMC. "Also, you can early vote by appointment during the week.”

Early voting ends Friday in Massachusetts before primary day March 3rd. To find out where you can vote early in Berkshire County, click here.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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