Presidential, senate election results spur local jubilation
Amherst voters wait in line for two of the three precincts set up at the Bangs Center or the election in November of 2012. KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »
State Rep. Ellen Story of Amherst said Wednesday morning that if Republicans had won in Tuesday’s election, she planned to stay in bed all day.
“I’m very happy to be able to get out of bed ,” Story said. “I’m thrilled with the result.”
More than six times as many Amherst residents voted for President Barack Obama as former Gov. Mitt Romney, with the unofficial tally 12,316 to 1,872. Elizabeth Warren received more than four times as many Amherst votes as Sen. Scott Brown, winning 11,853 votes to Brown’s 2,942.
The unofficial turnout in Amherst was over 66 percent, with some absentee ballots still to be counted, said Town Clerk Sandra Burgess. A total of 14,973 people voted, and many of them waited in line for 30 to 60 minutes, she said.
Hadley voters supported Obama and Warren by smaller margins, with the president outpolling Romney 2,120-889 and Warren beating Brown, 1,957-1,126.
Story, who held signs for Warren at Munson Library and Wildwood School Tuesday, said Romney was not an effective candidate. “He changed positions too many times,” she said. “I heard people say that he will say anything to win.”
Judy Brooks of Amherst, a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, said she hopes to attend the inauguration in January, as she did four years ago. She said she’s proud to live in a town that supported Obama so strongly.
“People in Amherst were ready to stand with him to finish the job and make the country a better place for whoever comes in 2016,” she said. “I feel great and free, now there’s no more campaigning. Now we have to go to work for real. There will be a long but steady improvement, with all the problems we’re facing.”
Ralph Whitehead, a journalism professor at the University of Massachusetts and longtime follower of state politics, said that Romney was out of sync with the “new America” of African-Americans, Latinos, single women, gays and young people.
“What’s remarkable about Obama’s victory is he took what is usually only a secondary advantage for a candidate, that a majority of the country thinks he cares more about them than his opponent does, and turned that into a primary advantage,” Whitehead said.
Alice Swift, the co-coordinator of Warren’s Amherst campaign, credited UMass students with pumping up the Warren vote in Amherst, as buses left from Haigis Mall for polling places throughout the day Tuesday. “It’s amazing the number of students who came out,” she said. As for Warren, Swift said, “We knew we could count on her honesty and her being the person she said she was,” while Brown made a tactical error by making negative comments about her. Swift said she has twice told Warren that her top issue is single-payer health insurance.
Brian Schaffner, a UMass associate professor of political science, said that women’s issues were second only to the economy in the minds of voters. “I think when (Warren) focused the dialogue of the race on women’s issues, she started to gain traction,” he said.
Whitehead said the last debate was pivotal, as Warren said Brown had failed the state’s women by voting against equal work for equal pay legislation and in favor of restricted access to contraception.
“That set of valid assertions about Brown’s record was crisp and powerful,” he said.
Amherst also supported Democrat Mary Olberding, the successful candidate for Hampshire Country Register of Deeds, giving her 9,172 votes to 3,192 for Independent candidate George Zimmerman.
Amherst voters backed Question 1, the right-to-repair referendum, 12,037 to 1,289. They supported Question 2, the “death with dignity” referendum, 10,431 to 3,989, and Question 3, which allows medical use of marijuana, 11,982 to 2,461.
The Amherst turnout was much greater than in purely local elections, and most polling places were swamped all day Tuesday. At Precinct 9 at Wildwood School at 5 p.m., the wait was about an hour and the line snaked in a loop inside the building and stretched outside all the way to the parking lot. At Precincts 4, 5 and 10 at the Bangs Center, the line was out the door and poll workers ran out of “I Voted” stickers.
At Wildwood, several voters noted that the bottleneck was at the check-in desk and said there should be two lines instead of one. Burgess said that was tried at some precincts, but can lead to more confusion if voters get in the wrong line.
“Anybody who expects not to stand in line in a presidential election has unrealistic expectations,” she said.
Ronald Grosslein of Columbia Drive in Amherst said his choices were driven in part by environmental issues.
“I think the most important issue is human-induced climate change,” he said. “There’s a clear-cut difference between Democratic and Republican candidates. I think Obama gets it, but his hands are tied by gridlock.”
Alan Root of Kellogg Avenue said he cast his first ballot for president in 1960 for John F. Kennedy. “I have a sense of religiosity when it comes to showing up at the polls,” he said.
Andrew Morris-Friedman of Hadley said he was thrilled that Tuesday’s vote mattered. “We finally have an election in Massachusetts where every vote counts,” he said.
Reporters Ben Storrow and Scott Merzbach contributed to this report.