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Florence predicts low voter turnout of preliminary election

Date: 11/19/2012

By Chris Maza

EAST LONGMEADOW — After an impressive 77 percent voter turnout for the election on Nov. 6, Town Clerk Thomas Florence said he does not expect anything close to those numbers for the local special preliminary election on Nov. 20.

Resident Nicholas Chiusano, former Planning Board and Community Preservation Committee Chair Peter Punderson, former School Committee member Angela Thorpe and former Selectman Joseph Townshend will face off for a seat on the Board of Selectmen in an election that Florence said he would be ecstatic to see a 15 percent turnout.

"On the heels of a presidential election where we saw a huge turnout, I would say it's probably going to be about the opposite," he said. "I would love to see 12 to 15 percent [turnout], but I think 10 percent would be more realistic.

"To put it in terms of the number of people, the turnout would be going from approximately 9,000 voters to 1,200," he continued.

Florence said that despite the fact that local elections have the most direct effect on town residents, historically, they are sparsely attended.

"It's true that these elections have a direct impact on the people on a day-to-day basis. With that knowledge, why don't more people come out? If I had that answer, I would be very happy," he said. "You would think that more people would want to get involved, but history says that's just not the way it is.

"You do what you can to get the word out through candidates forums, public notices and the media, but most of the time the interest isn't there," he added.

At stake in this election is a shot at the position currently held by Board of Selectmen Chair James Driscoll, whose term expires in April 2013.

Driscoll had initially announced his intentions to resign from the Board of Selectmen at a July 24 Board of Selectmen's meeting, citing new work responsibilities.

However, in light of the recent voter fraud scandal and resignation of former Selectman Enrico "Jack" Villamaino, who has since been arrested in connection with the scheme and is awaiting trial, Driscoll announced he would stay on the board until such time as a smooth transition could be made.

Florence said that it was important for voters to remember that Nov. 22 would be a preliminary to "reduce the number of Selectman candidates for the April 2013 seat from four to two for the upcoming Special Town Election to be held on Dec. 18 to fill two open Board of Selectman seats."

"Voters on Tuesday are asked to vote for no more than two candidates [on Nov. 20]," he said. "The top two vote totals will proceed to the Dec. 18 election to fill the open seat until April, 2013."

In addition to Driscoll's seat, Villamaino's vacant position, a term that extends through 2014, will be filled on Dec. 18 by either Debra Boronski or write-in candidate Bryan Doe.

As with all East Longmeadow elections, it will be take place at Birchland Park Middle School for all four precincts. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For further information, call the Clerk's Office at 525-5400 ext. 1000.