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Election Day across Merrimack Valley features masks, social distancing and strong turnout

The coronavirus crisis and a harsh wind chill did not keep Merrimack Valley voters away from the polls early Tuesday morning, with locals in Methuen and Lawrence turning out in the hundreds to cast ballots in-person before noon on Election Day.

Bundled-up Methuen residents stood outside Tenney School in a socially distant line that wrapped around the school parking lot, while their neighbors circled for parking spaces. All wore masks as they waited for precinct wardens, including Marie Messina, to let them inside to cast ballots for either President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden.

“Things are going well. I’d say we’ve had 100 people in the first 10 minutes.” Messina said at 7:15 a.m.

A Methuen police officer stationed at the school's front door kept things orderly and chatted with locals, including one man who had to turn his Trump face mask inside-out to adhere to the requirement that no political paraphernalia be allowed inside the voting area.

At the nearby Timony School, Precinct 2 warden Ron Marsden also estimated a turnout of about 100 voters waiting in line inside the building a 7 a.m. Four precincts of Methuen voters cast ballots at Timony, he said.

“It’s amazing how many people want to vote in-person. We try to make it happy for people and a happy experience for everyone. The (police) officers do a great job,” said Marsden, praising the local officers who let voters wait in a socially distant line inside the school rather than out in the cold and windy 30-degree morning.

Marsan said he had heard that a City Hall employee had tested positive for COVID-19, but did not believe it had an impact on Election Day proceedings and said his polling place was running smoothly with business as usual.

The two precincts Beverly Brown oversaw at Methuen's Senior Center had a steady stream of voters until 7:45 a.m. Tuesday, she said, with most voters stopping by to cast ballots before work. One young Methuen voter cast a ballot for her first time, Brown said.

While there was plenty of hand sanitizer to be hand in the community room of the Senior Center, two things were noticeably absent — casualties, Brown said, of the coronavirus era: No traditional Election Day bake sales or "I Voted!" stickers.


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