Voters face long lines and chilly temperatures

Voters experienced long lines at many Boston precincts and in nearby towns this morning, even as other voters were able to cast their ballots with little wait.

In Somerville, by 11 a.m., some were waiting at least two hours to vote. The line for the polls outside of Ciampa Manor, a senior housing development on College Avenue in Davis Square, wrapped around the block. A person gave out free coffee to those waiting in temperatures that hovered near freezing.

Voters in South Boston said they had to wait an hour or more. The line for the polls at Condon Elementary School stretched down the street and snaked around the building.

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“I’ve lived here for a few years, but this is my first time voting here and the lines are really intense,” said South Boston resident Cara Mancini.

Turnout was high in Boston. As of 3 p.m., 148,134 people had voted, representing 38.26 percent of the city’s registered voters, according to the mayor’s office. That was slightly lower than during the last presidential election. As of 3 p.m. on Election Day in 2008, 152,780 people had voted.

The polls close at 8 p.m.

Brian McNiff, spokesman for Secretary of State William Galvin, acknowledged: “It’s heavy out there, long lines.”

One South Boston precinct saw 282 voters at 9 a.m. four years ago. This year at 9 a.m. more than 400 voters had cast their ballots in the precinct. The State House precinct saw 395 voters at 9 a.m. during the last presidential election. By 10 a.m. today, 802 voters had voted at the precinct, McNiff said.

He said there had been no glitches at polls this morning but that the lengthy amount of text on ballots, which included several ballot initiatives, may have slowed down voters.

Voters at several Boston polling stations questioned whether there were enough workers to handle the large flow.

The Boston mayor’s office predicted that the long lines would ease after the traditionally busy morning rush.

“We are advising voters that the longest lines are going to be first thing in the morning and after 4 p.m. today,” said a spokeswoman for the mayor’s press office. “The non-peak hours of 11 to 3 are typically ideal.”

Boston takes into account the number of active registered voters and assigns them to different precincts.

For example, Precinct 1 in East Boston has 1,200 active voters, while Precinct 15 in Dorchester had only 215.

Voters assigned to Precinct 1 will vote in large spaces such as school auditoriums and gymnasiums that accommodate many people, while those assigned to Precinct 15 will vote in smaller rooms.

“We do expect there to be lines for this type of election as we have seen in the past,” the spokeswoman said. “So far this morning, no glitches at any of the polling locations.”

Lines were long in the South End where voters waited at Cathedral High School to cast their ballots.

Meanwhile, at St. Mark Elementary School in Dorchester, voting lines were thinning and voters were waiting no longer than 10 minutes.

And by 10 a.m. in West Roxbury, there were short lines at St. George’s Church on Emmonsdale Road.

Kathryn Postulka, mother of two young children, said the implications for voting loomed large this year versus the last presidential election.

“Everything has changed for us,” said the West Roxbury mom, who owns a small business as a health coach. “The choices we make will affect them,” she added, referring to her children.

Duxbury, one of the few communities in the state that opened at 6 a.m., had a unique turnout of early morning voters nervous that if they did not get their votes in early, they would not make it to a polling location after work.

Almost every voting booth was full in the school’s gymnasium, but luckily for the state’s earliest voters, there were no lines.

“I wanted to make sure I get it in,” said Molly O’Connell, 33, on why she was at the Duxbury Middle School – the only polling location in the town—so early. “I’m nervous and excited at the same time for the election.”

In Wrentham, where Senator Scott Brown lives, Town Clerk Carol Mollica said voter turnout could approach 90 percent. One strong indicator, she said, is the number of absentee ballots completed. Four years ago, 540 were filled out and in this election, over 700 were submitted. In the first hour of voting Tuesday morning, 641 ballots were cast.

The turnout seemed to be actually down in some places.

At Franklin High School, voting was brisk but not as much as in 2008, when 4,506 votes were cast in the first three hours of voting. This morning, 4,199 were cast during that same period, said precinct warden Linda Jewell.

Boston reported two health emergencies at the polls.

At the Elihu Greenwood Elementary School in Hyde Park, an elderly person went into cardiac arrest around around 2:45 p.m., said Boston EMS spokeswoman Jennifer Mehigan. Paramedics took the person to Faulkner Hospital in Jamaica Plain.

A man in his late 80s collapsed while he stood in line to vote at a polling station in Chinatown, police said. The man fell to the ground about 3:30 p.m. while standing in line at 38 Oak St., said a police officer at the scene who declined to give his name. The officer said the man was conscious and alert when EMTs arrived and took him to a city hospital as a precaution.