NEWBURYPORT — Voters will cast ballots during municipal elections today in Newburyport and Amesbury, with Clipper City voters deciding the future of retail marijuana in the community and electing the next lineup of city councilors at large.
Running for five at-large council seats are incumbents Joe Devlin, Bruce Vogel, Barry Connell and Afroz Khan, current Ward 4 Councilor Charles Tontar, and challengers Paul O'Brien and Robert Germinara.
Voters will also choose either Sarah Hall or Byron Lane to become the next Ward 6 councilor in replacement of Thomas O'Brien, who will be retiring at the end of the year.
The ballot will not include a mayoral race. All other City Council and School Committee races are uncontested.
The Newburyport ballot will include Question 1, which asks voters to decide whether to allow retail sales of adult-use marijuana. A "yes" vote on Question 1 would bar retail sales; a "no" vote would allow retail sales.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
In Amesbury, voters will decide between two candidates running for mayor, incumbent Ken Gray and challenger Kassandra Gove, as well as contests for City Council seats.
Polls in Amesbury will be in the Amesbury High School cafeteria, located at 5 Highland St., with voting from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Newburyport City Clerk Richard Jones said he expects about 25% of the city's approximately 14,150 registered voters to turn out. While elections with weightier ballots might draw significantly higher numbers of voters, Jones said he thinks the marijuana referendum will motivate some people to get to the polls.
"Generally speaking, a presidential election brings 90% of the city's voters, and a mayor's race brings 50%," Jones said. "This time, there aren't any contested races in Wards 1 through 5, which is unusual, but the wildcard is the marijuana question. There has been a fair number of people interested in that."
Jones said the ballot question is likely the reason why more than 200 residents have already cast absentee ballots, a healthy number that he said is "an indication that the turnout would be fairly good."
The election will be the last to be conducted with the city's current voting machines before it upgrades to a new set that will first be used during the March presidential primary.
Officials previously hoped to use eight new Imagecast Precinct voting machines on Tuesday, but Jones said their plans were delayed by "some statutory timelines." The voting machines were purchased earlier this year for $47,300, and will replace the current machines, which are 12 years old and sometimes jam.
Newburyport's polling places are at the following locations:
Plum Island: Plum Island Boat House, 300 Northern Blvd.
Ward 1: People's United Methodist Church, 64 Purchase St.
Ward 2: Brown School, 42 Milk St.
Wards 3 and 4: Hope Community Church, 11 Hale St.
Wards 5 and 6: Senior Community Center, 331 High St.
To see a list of candidates running in Newburyport: www.cityofnewburyport.com/sites/newburyportma/files/uploads/copy_of_candidates_2019v1.pdf
For Amesbury voters, a sample ballot can be found at: www.amesburyma.gov/clerk/news/november-5-2019-ballot-information.
For more information on the Amesbury elections go to; www.amesburyma.gov/elections.
Staff writer Jack Shea covers Newburyport City Hall. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.
TUESDAY'S ELECTION: Information about Amesbury and Newburyport candidates appears on Pages 2, 6 and 7.