DRACUT -- Voters in Dracut will go to the polls on Monday, May 7, when the annual municipal election takes place.
With no hotly contested races this year, political watchers are predicting a low turnout. Dracut Town Clerk Kathleen Graham is expecting from 3,500 to 3,750 or the town's 19,000 registered voters to show up. (The total population of the town is about 30,000.)
Nevertheless, preparations must be made. About 80 election workers will be on hand. Police will be stationed at each of the town's 10 precincts and the event will still cost between $10,000 and $12,000 no matter how many people show up to cast their ballots.
Work begins about 90 days
before the election as Graham's office makes nomination papers available so the candidates can have them at least 45 days before the election. When candidates return their papers with the required 50 signatures, the clerk's office must certify those signatures. Graham then coordinates a schedule that is distributed to the election workers, telling them where and when to be on Election Day. Many will show up an hour before the polls open at 7 a.m. and stay until after the polls close at 8 p.m.
Q: Are the election workers paid?
A: "Yes. They are paid between $7.50 an hour and $8.50 an hour. Some work all day and others work only part of the day. They are a very dedicated group of people and I don't think many of them are doing it for the money. They're just very civic-minded."
A: "The elections are funded through the general budget. I have an election budget. There are four elections this year. We had the presidential primary election in March. The town election is coming up on May 7. There will be a state primary election in September and the national election in November. Funding also comes from the state and federal government for those elections."
Q: How did the Federal Census of 2010 impact the town of Dracut?
A: "Some of the polling locations were changed for some people because of the redistricting. A town is only allowed to have 3,500 people, plus or minus 5 percent, in each precinct, so the redistricting divided the town somewhat and we had to swap some district lines. Most of it affected Precinct 1 and Precinct 6, which is at the Council on Aging building on Mammoth Road. It only affected about 500 people. Out of 19,000 people, that's not too bad."
Q: How do you feel about a National Election Day, whereby the town election would be held every year on the same day as the state or national election?
A: "I think that would be fine as long as the federal and state governments continue to chip in and help out with the funding. Many more people come out to vote during a state or presidential election so it would definitely increase the numbers if we had the town election on the same day."
Q: What are your thoughts on the voter identification requirements that are being proposed in Massachusetts?
A: "I'm absolutely in favor of requiring voter identification. There is no reason anybody should be offended when they're asked to produce an ID to vote. You're asked for identification when you get cable television hooked up or when you buy cigarettes or booze. You're asked for identification when you pick up certain prescription drugs or when you cash a check at the bank. It's not like it was years ago when everybody in town knew each other. There are a lot of new people in town and I don't see anything wrong with asking someone to produce and ID before they vote."