State primary approaches

By Kate AbbottPrint Story | Email Story
Lindey Kaiden, a clerk in the Pittsfield registrar of voters office, displays a mock ballot of the type used in new voting machines in the city and Lee and Lenox. (Photo By Anthony Fyden)
Berkshire voters, along with residents across the state, will go to the polls on March 2 for the presidential primary, and voters in Lee, Lenox and Pittsfield will use new voting machines that could help things run a bit smoother. But whether voters will turn out in large numbers remains to be seen. Local officials are concerned because of past experience. “People don’t realize that this is how their candidate gets to the November election,” said Lee Town Clerk Suzanne Scarpa. “If they don’t vote for a candidate here [in the primary], they may not have the chance to vote for him later. It’s a shame people don’t get out there more and vote.” There are 3,832 registered voters in Lee. Scarpa estimated that only 200 to 500 vote in most primaries. A race among local candidates might bring out 1,000 voters, she said. It typically takes a hotly contested race to draw people to a primary. In recent primaries, turnout in South County as a whole has been hard put to reach 30 percent and often has been closer to 10 percent, officials said. This year, prognosticators have all but given the nod to Sen. John Kerry as the Democratic nominee, although he is one of 10 candidates on the ballot. George W. Bush is alone on the Massachusetts ballot for the Republican nomination. Peggy Byron, chairwoman of the Lee Democratic Town Committee, would like to see more people revved up about the election. “The Democrats have to unite and stand behind one candidate,” Byron said. “We do have low voter turnout here, and it’s very sad. The lowest turnout is for 18 to 24-year-olds, and that’s even sadder. It’s their future. It’s their world.” Lenox Town Clerk Marie Colvin said turnout for some state primaries has been as low as only 76 of the town’s 3,605 registered voters. The last presidential primary drew just over 1,000, she said. Great Barrington and Stockbridge town clerks confirmed low voter turnout in their towns, as well. In Stockbridge, 456 out of more than 1,500 registered voters turned out for the last presidential primary, and Town Clerk Linda Hunt said the town has had about as many voters at state primaries since then. Unenrolled voters can vote in primaries but often do not, Scarpa noted. These voters simply have to go to their local polling site and inform the poll worker which party’s ballot they would like. Scarpa said unenrolled voters are often reluctant to declare themselves for one party or another, even temporarily, because they are concerned about their privacy. During a presidential primary, unenrolled voters regain their independent status as soon as they hand in the ballot, Colvin said. Both towns and Pittsfield will use new “Acuvote” voting machines for the first time on Tuesday. Great Barrington and Stockbridge have used the new machines for a couple of years. The new machines replaced lever machines that allowed people to correct their vote after they had cast it. Lee never had a problem with the lever machines, but federal election legislation passed in 2002 mandated replacing the old equipment, Scarpa said. The government is reimbursing Lee for $5,800 of the $6,250 the town spent on the voting machine, she said. Along with the new voting machine, Lee got 35 booths, one of which is accessible to the handicapped. Using the new system, voters will receive a paper ballot and take it into private booth to fill out. Voters will shade the circle next to the name of the candidate they choose and put the ballot into a slot. Then the machine will store the ballot in a locked box, so the vote can be reviewed. If a voter makes a mistake, the machine will send the ballot back and explain why. Voters have three chances to fill out a ballot. “It’s a very simple process, and we will explain everything,” Scarpa said. Voters on Tuesday will also elect town committee members, roles that receive little fanfare but can impact an election. There’s also a contested race for Democrat state committeeman, with incumbent Peter G. Arlos and Matt L. Baron of Chesterfield vying to represent Berkshire County Democrats at the state level. Margaret Johnson Ware of Williamstown is the only Berkshire Democrat running for state committeewoman.
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NPC Roll Out Virtual Nonprofit Resource Directory

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — The Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires (NPC) has introduced a virtual Nonprofit Resource Directory to connect nonprofits to local and regional businesses that provide products and services to charitable organizations.
 
Located on the NPC web site, the directory features over 600 businesses from accounting firms to web site designers. 
 
Sponsored by Paper Crane Associates, a Massachusetts-based company providing strategic and business planning for nonprofits, the virtual directory provides direct links to vendor web sites. 
 
"We like to think of the Nonprofit Resource Directory as an economic development effort since nonprofits need many products and services, and ultimately have a huge impact on our economy," NPC founder Liana Toscanini said.
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