(Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)
A steady stream of voters continued trekking to the polls late this afternoon to vote in Boston's most competitive mayor’s race in 16 years. By 6 p.m., the highest turnout had been in Ward 20 in West Roxbury, where nearly 40 percent of registered voters cast ballots, according to preliminary figures from the city Election Department.
Other particularly busy polling places have included wards in southern Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, and Roslindale. Across Boston nearly 90,000 ballots have been cast, a mark that represents more than 25 percent of the city's registered voters.
The turnout appeared to be "on par with other municipal elections," said Geraldine M. Cuddyer, Boston's election commissioner, adding that voting thus far had gone "smoothly" without any major hiccups.
People walked with dogs and baby strollers to the polling place inside Cathedral High School Gym in the South End, one of Boston's most diverse neighborhoods where the words "vote here" were posted in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese. One voter, Richard Shibley, cast his ballot for the incumbent.
"The city works," said Shibley, a 50-year-old computer consultant. "If someone's doing a bad job, four years is too long. If someone's doing a good job, keep them in the job."
On H Street in South Boston, however, the meaning of "change" cut two ways. For Meg Walsh, a retired 63-year-old who voted for Flaherty, Menino has simply been in office for much too long.
"We need a change, and I pray to God for Flaherty," said Walsh, a lifelong South Boston resident like her choice for mayor.
But for Martha Van Riddle, a 74-year-old library administrator who voted for Menino, Boston's national reputation as a well-managed city swayed her to stick with the incumbent and avoid the unknown.
The pace of early voting was slow in Jamaica Plain at the John F. Kennedy Elementary School, where only 10 ballots were cast in first half hour after polls opened at 7 a.m. David Wilhelmi, 59, walked past a fence affixed with signs for Menino and Flaherty and several City Council candidates as he entered the school.
"The mayor has been in office for too long," said Wilhelmi, a financial official at Children's Hospital. "I like him. He has helped us, but we need some new blood."
Back in the South End, however, Ben Venido Benson stuck with the incumbent for mayor.
"I don't want to change," the 86-year-old retiree said with a shrug of his shoulders and a quick laugh. "Maybe somebody comes in. He does bad."
Today’s municipal election will also determine the makeup of the City Council, with 21 candidates vying for 13 seats. Eight candidates are fighting for four citywide posts, and four district councilors are trying to beat back challengers. Five district councilors are running unopposed.
Outside Boston, voters in more than a dozen communities surrounding the city also go to the polls today to choose mayors and weigh in on local ballot questions. There are competitive mayoral fights for open seats in Newton, Lawrence, and Newburyport, along with duels between incumbents and challengers in a dozen communities in Eastern Massachusetts.
Boston has 356,453 registered voters eligible to cast ballots. More than 1,500 election officials will work at 254 precincts in 156 different polling places, which will remain open until 8 p.m.
Approximately 400 of the poll workers are fluent in a second language. All precincts will have ballots written in English and Spanish. Ballots fully translated in Chinese and Vietnamese will also be available.
Interpreters will be available to assist voters in Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Haitian Creole, Cape Verdean Creole, Russian, and other languages. There will also be audio recordings of the ballots in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese.
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On the beat
Columnist Shirley Leung says Boston mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh should focus on middle-class housing. Read more