REGION — A small sampling of voter turnout in the Oxford Hills showed more people voted in the Nov. 8, 2016, presidential election than in 2012 and at least two towns broke their previous voter records.
In Norway, 2,693 people voted last week, which included 654 absentee ballots, according to Town Clerk Shirley Boyce. This is up from November 2012 when there 2,522 voters, including 568 absentees.
“Voting early helps. It takes a load off a little bit,” she said.
After registering 261 new voters on Election Day, there was 67 percent participation from the now 4,047 registered voters in the 2016 election. Boyce said this was “by far a record of new voters registering.”
“Certainly the one big complication is registering so many voters new because it takes time. Many times that line was longer than the voting line,” she said about the polls on Nov. 8.
In neighboring South Paris, Town Clerk Liz Knox had 2,752 voters last week, including 729 absentees. She noted there were at least 50 people waiting in line around 6:45 a.m. even though the polls did not open until 8 a.m.
In 2012, there were 2,646 voters for that presidential election, including 602 absentee ballots.
When Knox started Election Day 2016, there were 3,725 registered voters in Paris. There were 283 new voters on Nov. 8, which bumped registered voters to 4,009.
“Out of a population of 5,182 that gives us 78 percent of the residents registered,” she said. “I believe that that’s the highest we’ve probably ever had for registered voters.”
Unlike some of Paris’ counterparts, Knox and her election clerks also had a separate town ballot that contained the selectmen’s races, town meeting format and Oxford County Regional Recycling referendum questions. This put extra work on herself and her crew, she said.
“Putting together an election and then running one takes a lot of hard work from everyone involved, from the absentee voting to setting up the election room, to the day of election and all the post stuff,” Knox said. “I just wish the elected officials could work one election from start to finish to see all the work that goes into [it].”
Oxford Town Clerk Beth Olsen reported there were 2,230 voters on Nov. 8, which included 530 absentee ballots. In November 2012, there were 2,030 voters, which included 422 absentees. Oxford saw a similar number of Election Day voter registrations as Paris and Norway with 275. Now there are 3,120 registered voters in Oxford.
Over in Harrison, there was an 11 percent increase in voter turnout for the 2016 presidential election over 2012.
In 2016, there were 1,497 people who voted, including 375 absentee ballots, according to Town Clerk Melissa St. John. Of the 1,824 registered voters in the Friendly Village, 82 percent of them voted last week.
This is up from the 1,437 voters in 2012, including 292 absentees, which equated to 71 percent of registered voters participating in the democratic process.
As for the democratic process, it is quite the process to get everything ready for Election Day, she said.
“I think what people don’t realize is we start about five months before an election,” St. John said. “There are set deadlines for all kinds of things beyond referendum and candidate information. There are supplies to be ordered, staff to be arranged, and enough paperwork to fill a file drawer.”
But all of the hard work St. John and her election clerks put in is worth it, she said.
“I just want to add that I am happy so many voters turned out to exercise their right to vote. It is an avenue to have your voice heard,” she said.
Over the mountain in Buckfield, Town Clerk Cindy Dunn shared 1,112 people voted in last week’s election, including 266 absentee ballots. In the 2012 presidential election, there were 1,038 voters, including 194 absentees.
“On the morning of November 8, 2016 (before the polls opened), I had 1,380 registered voters. I now have 1,475 registered voters,” Dunn said, noting the two or three weeks leading up to and including the current election she’s “never seen anything like it in all my 34 years.”
In West Paris, Deputy Clerk Donna DiConzo saw more voters last week than in 2012 as well. There were 1,015 voters in the 2016 presidential election out of 1,250 registered voters. This included 235 absentee ballots. In 2012, there were roughly 800 voters, she said.
“It was a big turnout out,” DiConzo said. “It was busy, it was constant all day.”
Local voter turnout
2008: 2,790 voters
2012: 2,522 voters, 568 absentee
2016: 2,693 voters, 654 absentee
2008: 2,833 voters, 841 absentee
2012: 2,646, 602 absentee
2016: 2,752, 729 absentee
2012: 2,030 voters, 422 absentee
2016: 2,230, 530 absentee
2012: 1,437 voters, 292 absentee
2016: 1,497 voters, 375 absentee
2012: 1,038 voters, 194 absentee
2016: 1,112 voters, 266 absentee
2012: Around 800 voters
2016: 1,015 voters, 235 absentee