The doors to the absentee voting area in Belmont Town Hall was closed and locked a minute after noon.
Nearly 90 registered voters took the opportunity in the the final four hours that Belmont residents had to opportunity to vote early in the Town Clerk's office for tomorrow's general election, said Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman.
"They were waiting out the door into the hallway," she said, noting the interest by the public in Tuesday's election.
Since absentee ballots were available in September, about one in eight of the 17,800 voters in town took out applications to vote: 1,999 residents requested applications – including Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann – while 143 overseas resident and members of the armed forces also applied.
As of noon today, Monday, Nov. 5, about 1,780 absentee ballots have been casted either by mail or at Town Hall, a nearly 85 percent return rate.
(Absentee ballots must arrive at Town Hall by 8 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 6 so it is likely that only overnight mail will get the package to the Town Clerk's Office on time, according to Cushman.)
The mixture of civic duty, highly-competative races on the local, state and national level and being the home town of the Romney's has Cushman predicting a record number of voters heading to the town's eight polling locations, upwards of 85 to 90 percent.
The combination of possibly 16,000 voters, a mob of media and protesters in front of two precincts – Precinct 3 where the Romney's and his oldest son, Greensbrook Way's Tagg Romney, and his daughter-in-law, Jennifer – and an especially long ballot with ballot and non-binding questions will likely make for crowded precinct locations and waits to vote.
So Cushman has two words of advice for residents preparing to go out and vote tomorrow: Take a great deal of patience with you. And walk to the polls.
"If people read the ballot questions and there are six of them, it could take them longer to vote than what is normal. Add that to the numbers and it there will likely be a wait to vote," said Cushman.
In addition, Cushman advises voters who can to walk to the polls as parking is usually quite limited at locations and especially at the Beech Street Center.
"Most polling places are within walking distance; the two is four square miles and there are eight precincts," said Cushman, who said that people should park a little bit further away than usual.
Tomorrow's weather is for clear and cool weather with temperatures in the mid-40s.
Cushman has additional advice for residents:
• Many voters have read the red booklet prepared and distributed by the Secretary of the Commonwealth about Questions 1-3, however Belmont has three additional district-wide non-binding questions. The text of these questions can be found on the Town Clerk web page showing a sample ballot.
• It’s always a good idea to have proper identification with you when going to vote, in case you need to prove who you are. Please check the Town Clerk’s website showing the current voting list to see if you are on the list as a registered voter and your voting status.
If you’re listed as “inactive”, it just means that you didn’t complete the 2012 census and in order to vote you’ll need to provide ID and fill out a separate form at the polling place before you’ll be given a ballot. Alternatively, inactive voters can remedy this situation by appearing in person at the Town Clerk’s office (Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) to present ID and complete a form BEFORE Election Day.
• If you’re unable to make it to the polls on Election Day and qualify to vote absentee, submit your application right away to allow for mailing and return mail OR come to the Town Clerk’s office to vote "In Person Absentee." All voted Absentee Ballots will be sent to the voting precincts on Election Day and will be incorporated into the voting totals for the precinct.
• Lastly, the polls close at 8 p.m. SHARP. If you aren’t in line when the warden of the polling place calls the 8 p.m. time to close the polls, you’ll be disappointed that you cannot vote.