Thursday, 4:30 PM
Voting begins in Middleborough
By Matt Viser and Milton J. Valencia
Voting began shortly before 2 p.m. today in Middleborough at a massive town meeting held to decide whether to support a proposal to build a $1 billion casino in their town.
The vote began after more than two hours of debate on the question. The voting was expected to take about an hour and a half.
Residents were given large yellow ballots with the town seal as they arrived at a high school field this morning. They began arriving on buses at 8 a.m. carrying lawn chairs, umbrellas, and coolers as a mix of James Taylor, the Allman Brothers and the Eagles played over the loudspeakers.
Several arguments erupted and anti-casino protestors stood outside with signs as residents streamed in, but most sat on the grass and knitted or read magazines as they waited for the meeting to begin.
"It's democracy in action," said Bill Marzalli, a Middleborough resident who wore an orange shirt in favor of the casino.
Just as the meeting began at 11 am, an airplane flew overhead dragging a "NO CASINO" banner behind it. Opponents burst into applause as the meeting halted for several minutes.
Unofficial crowd estimates were lower than the earlier 9,000 to 10,000 turnout predicted before the vote. One police officer put the number at 4,000.
Outside the entrance to the high school field, advocates on both sides of the question gathered in a free speech zone. After the meeting began, supporters and opponents addressed the crowd under a hot sun. Temperatures hovered in the mid 80's.
"I don't think anybody has seen anything like this before,'' said Katie Miller, a Middleborough resident of 17 years.