Election Day for the Berkshires was sunny and brisk, with little to impede a steady flow of voters to the polls.
For all the concerns about disruptions — they were boarding up downtown Boston! — voting appears to have gone smoothly and efficiently even with pandemic precautions.
The primary election had provided a good template for town and city clerks to follow and the surge in early and mail-in voting may well have taken the edge off long lines in what is expected to be a record-breaking turnout.
There were no local races on the ballot since the entire Berkshire delegation was running unopposed. U.S. Sen. Edward Markey was running for a full second term against Republican challenger Kevin O'Connor and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal was returning to office unopposed. Both Democrats had fended off primary contenders in September.
The big ticket items were for president, with Democrat Joseph Biden attempting to unseat incumbent Republican Donald Trump, and two ballot questions, one on the "right to repair" dealing with independent mechanics access to automobile data, and the other on ranked choice voting.
The result for office was not surprising. Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris took Massachusetts with 67 percent of the vote. Markey returned to office with 67.7 percent. Both of these numbers were from the Associated Press with 60 percent of votes counted. Question 1 has also apparently passed with 75 percent of voters saying yes; Question 2 was failing with more than half of voters saying no.
The smaller towns in North County had a pretty steady turnout, including Stamford, Vt., across the border. In Clarksburg, the lines were at the door at 7 a.m., reported Jeanne Moulthrop. Poll workers had predicted some turnout numbers with the highest being 1,000 — the total number of registered voters is about 1,200. That's up 56 voters since the primary.
"I had to turn two people away because they hadn't registered in time," said Moulthrop.
Moulthrop thought they could hit the 1,000 — or 83 percent — turnout since more than 400 had already voted in person or by mail. The number of ballots cast was 523 shortly before noon and Moulthrop was still working her way through the mail-ins. "I get started and then I have to stop to help a real live person," she joked.
The town's interim town clerk, Paul McLatchy III, was doing double duty covering his town of Rowe and Clarksburg. Moulthrop said he had been going back and forth between the towns and would be back in Clarksburg in the evening.
The numbers were steady in Cheshire as well, said Town Clerk Christine Emerson, who was busy unpacking mail-in ballots for processing. Voters were moving fairly swiftly through Community Center and 990 ballots had been cast at about 2:30. The town has 2,507 registered voters so already at about 40 percent.
"We're not even halfway through the mail-in votes," Emerson said. The poll workers had been busy from the start, she said, with a line at the door when they opened at 7 a.m. She joked there might to time talk on Wednesday, if they weren't all in a nursing home.
North Adams was at about 83 percent turnout by late afternoon: 3,743 had been cast at St. Anthony's Parish Center and about 3,600 people had already voted early or by mailed ballot.
"It has been steady all day. I think it is going to be one of the higher turnouts," poll worker Ron O'Brien said. "There has always been someone voting."
Town Clerk Christine Emerson unpackages mail-in ballots for processing.
There were also campaign signs in North Adams, with a couple of Democratic and Republican supporters standing at the end of the driveway on St. Anthony Drive, along with a signs in support of Question 2, which would implement ranked-choice voting.
In Adams, a lone Trump supporter stood with a sign as voters made their way to the polls at the Town Garage on Summer Street. Town Clerk Haley Meczywor said voting had been heavy in the morning — "there was a line out the door" — but had slowed significantly in the afternoon.
"Then it kind of like dwindled down," she said. "I mean, it's been steady, but I'm hoping it'll pick up."
The town has about 6,200 registered voters and had about 2,400-2,500 mail-in or early voting ballots. The setup is the same as was done for the primary election, with social distancing lines up to the precincts and plenty of hand sanitizer on hand.
Pittsfield precinct polls were busy through the day and the poll workers who had time to talk said everything has gone smoothly and turnout has been good. A visit around the city in the afternoon only turned up one group with signs — all for Biden.
The city had turnout of 72 percent, with 21,720 votes cast out of possible 30,056. Biden and Markey polled the most votes in their races.
Lenox had an 85 percent turnout with 3,321 ballots cast out of a total of 3,923 registered voters. Biden was the overwhelming favorite, taking 2,657 votes to Trump's 586 with 46 votes going to third parties. Markey was also a big winner with 2,578 votes to O'Connor's 636. Lenox voters also went big for Question 1 (2310 to 796) but rejected Question 2 by a slim 34 votes, 1,532 to 1566.
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COVID Outbreak Hits North Adams Nursing Home; Health Officials Urge Vaccination
By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Health officials are trying to determine if a significant outbreak of COVID-19 at a local nursing home is the highly transmissible Delta variant.
North Adams Commons reported three vaccinated residents with infections as of Friday morning. The total is now 20 residents and two staff members, said Lisa Gaudet, a spokesperson for Berkshire Healthcare that operates the nursing home. Only one of those is unvaccinated, she said.
The 119-bed skilled nursing facility is now closed to visitors and new admissions as health officials track down the source of the infection and determine if it's a variant. Gaudet said all residents and staff were being tested so the numbers may change.
"Clearly we're hearing in the national and local news about variants that are creating these breakthrough cases," Gaudet said. "We benefited from this vaccination when we saw all of our infections go down ... So this is something that is obviously concerning to us."
The email is signed by Berkshire Health System's Dr. James W. Lederer, chief medical officer, who on Thursday stressed to iBerkshires that anyone who had not been vaccinated should do so immediately.
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Executive Director Jennifer Hohn asked the commissioners Monday to consider the actions out of an abundance of caution in light of the recent condominium collapse in the state of Florida.
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Several pedestrian rights of way had been painted in by volunteers with the group Art About Town a decade ago but the project was dropped over concerns about crossing the state Department of Transportation
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The plan for two zoning overlay districts in the downtown under the state's 40R zoning was submitted in March after a public hearing late last year. The letter from the Department of Housing and Community Development was received June 28.
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