Busy was the word of the day at polling places across the North Shore yesterday, where voters turned out in some places in near-record numbers.
“It was huge turnout,” said police Capt. Joseph Berardino, who stood watch at one Peabody polling place. “People I’ve never seen before were there, a lot of first-timers.”
Peabody City Clerk Tim Spanos, who had predicted the turnout accurately at 75 percent, noted it was only slightly smaller than 2008’s 79 percent mark.
“It seemed busier,” he said of the more than 27,000 who voted.
In addition to the presidential contest between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney — which was not expected to be close in blue-state Massachusetts — two hot races juiced the turnout to high levels. Democrat Elizabeth Warren was contesting with Republican Scott Brown for his place in the U.S. Senate, and former GOP state Sen. Richard Tisei was challenging Democratic Congressman John Tierney in a bitterly contested race that attracted national attention.
In Marblehead, Jillian Lewis at the town clerk’s office reported busy polling places and phones ringing off the hook with would-be voters asking where they should cast their ballots. That didn’t take the staff by surprise; they came prepared for a vote exceeding the turnout in 2008.
“We have processed more absentee ballots than 2008,” Lewis said.
In Salem, 69 percent of the city’s registered voters went to the polls.
“It was nonstop all day,” Salem City Clerk Cheryl Lapointe said. “Everybody got a workout.”
The line at the Salem State University’s Enterprise Center stretched out the door, for example, students surprising some with their eagerness to fulfill their civic duty.
As of 2 p.m. in Beverly, 45 percent, or 11,633 people, had voted, according to the city clerk’s office. How does this compare to the last presidential election? At 2 p.m. in 2008, 46 percent of Beverly’s registered voters had cast ballots.