The Barre City polling place has moved to the Old Labor Hall, due to a propane leak on Bugbee Avenue, which prompted a citywide power shutdown. The order to evacuate came from the Secretary of State’s office, according to city officials. Despite the restoration of power to much of the city - it had been shut off as a precaution while the major propane leak was secured - the polling place will remain moved to the Old Labor Hall, officials said.
The emergency change of venue was not well received by one Barre resident – an Obama voter – who parked on Merchant Street and walked across the expansive parking lot at the Barre Civic Center complex to cast her ballot at the Auditorium. “I’m not going to bother to vote, to hell with it,” Donna D. Holden said after learning she would have to walk back to her car and then drive to the Old Labor Hall and vote there.
Voting got off to a fast start in the Granite City on Tuesday, though the initial wave only lasted about 20 minutes before settling into a steady, but manageable flow of voters at the Barre Municipal Auditorium.
“The first 20 minutes were crazy,” City Clerk Carol Dawes said, while undertaking the tedious task of opening and separating absentee ballots. That turned into an hours-long effort due to the sheer size of the stack. Dawes received more than 850 requests for absentee ballots in the run up to the elections and each envelope contained two ballots – one asking voters to express their preference for everything from president of the United States to local justices of the peace, and the other seeking approval for a $3 million roof replacement project at Spaulding High School.
The latter question is one that will be jointly decided by voters in Barre and neighboring Barre Town. According to Dawes, the stack of absentee ballots isn’t quite as thick as it was four years ago when more than 1,100 Granite City voters cast their ballots early in the presidential race. Still, there was a long line when the polls opened today and more than 275 ballots were cast in the first hour. That figure jumped to just over 450 by 9 a.m. and by noon the count stood at just over 1,325 voters. By 2:30 p.m. the count had risen to 1,800 ballots, including some of the absentee ballots that had started to be fed into the machines.
There are roughly 6,700 registered voters in Barre. In addition to the roof project, voters will settle a three-way race for two local legislative seats. All three candidates – Rep. Paul Poirier, I-Barre, Rep. Tess Taylor, D-Barre, and Republican challenger John Santorello – spent the day at the polls. This year, for the first time in modern history, the legislative seats will be filled in citywide elections. In past years, the city has been divided into separate single-member districts. That changed due to Census-driven reapportionment this year.