Voter registration peaks, absentee ballots mount for Tuesday election

Several area communities say they have encountered late spikes in voter registrations for Tuesday’s election, and in some cases are setting records for the number of absentee ballot applications.

Concord Town Clerk Anita Tekle said her office has logged a record number of registered voters, 13,016, and is headed toward a new mark for absentee ballots, with more than 1,900 taken out.

Interest in the election is high, Tekle said, because people realize that the presidential race is close nationally, and in Massachusetts, the US Senate contest between Republican incumbent Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren is also tight, with the outcome potentially tilting the balance of power on Capitol Hill.

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“They realize that their vote will count,” Tekle said.

Election officials in Brookline, Framingham, Lexington, Natick, and Newton have also reported strong demand for absentee ballots, and surges in the number of people who have registered to vote since the September primary elections.

The application deadline for absentee ballots is Monday at noon, and the ballots must be returned by the close of the polls on Tuesday in order to be counted. Absentee ballots from outside the United States must by postmarked by Election Day, and received within 10 days after the election.

Statewide, the total number of absentee ballots requested was not available last week, said Brian McNiff, a spokesman for Secretary of State William Galvin’s office.

But McNiff said the number is running a little ahead of the applications received during the 2008 presidential election.

“It has sort of been trending that way in recent elections,” McNiff said. “People travel more, have longer commutes — any number of reasons they are out of town the day of the election.”

Brookline has sent out close to 4,000 absentee ballots this year — a total so high that Town Clerk Pat Ward said his office had to order more absentee ballots to keep up with the demand. Ward said he’s been working to process a number of applications from US citizens in Israel, Europe, and other spots around the globe.

“I’m swamped,” said Ward, who noted that his office would be open Saturday and Sunday as the deadline for taking out absentee ballots nears.

Ward said the number of registered voters in Brookline has also increased by more than 4,000 since the September primaries, even though some names were taken off the list for various reasons.

In Natick, Town Clerk Diane Packer said she also believes the tight US Senate race between Brown and Warren has driven some of the registration and absentee ballot numbers.

Packer said her office has signed up more than 1,000 new voters since the September primaries. The town had about 1,800 absentee ballots in the last presidential election, and Packer said she is expecting more than 1,900 for Tuesday’s vote.

Lexington Town Clerk Donna Hooper said early voting allowed in other states this year has piqued interest in absentee ballots because Massachusetts does not allow early voting.

The number of absentee ballots taken out in her town has surpassed the total of 2,428 for the 2008 presidential election, and will top 2,500 and possibly 2,550 by noon Monday, said Hooper.

The number of registered voters in Lexington has increased by about 500 since the September primaries, bringing the total to about 22,200, she said.

“This is typical for every presidential election year — the voter registration peaks right before the election,” Hooper said.

In Framingham, the number of registered voters has increased by 1,445 since the September primaries, bringing the new total to 36,957, said Town Clerk Valerie Mulvey. The number of absentee ballot applications was at 2,217 by Wednesday, which is about 100 below the total for the 2008 presidential election. But Mulvey said she expected this year’s total to surpass the 2008 figure by the deadline Monday.

In Newton, 5,755 people had applied for absentee ballots by midday Thursday, or roughly 10 percent of the city’s registered voters, said Craig AJ Manseau, the Election Commission’s executive secretary. The number is up slightly from the 2008 presidential election, Manseau said, and he expects the total voter turnout Tuesday to meet or exceed the 81 percent turnout four years ago.

Since the September primary elections, Manseau said, the number of registered voters in the city has increased by 3,500, and the Election Commission is encouraged by the interest residents are showing in exercising their right to vote.

“It’s rewarding for us because we are working hard.’’