Published in the November 3, 2016 edition


NORTH READING — It is not accurate to say that the 2016 presidential election has gone on significantly longer than past elections in the modern era.

Perhaps it just seems that way.

The election most Americans say they can’t wait to see end will finally reach its conclusion next Tuesday, Nov. 8.

There are 11,336 registered voters in North Reading. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and all registered voters will cast their ballots in the parish hall of St. Theresa Church — unless of course, they’re one of the approximately 2,000 who have already taken advantage of the state’s new early voting law. Early voting continues through Friday, Nov. 4 at 1 p.m. at town hall. As of Saturday, 13.5 percent of the town’s voters had cast early ballots.

For all the storm and fury generated by nearly a year of divisive primaries, party conventions and the election campaign, next week’s presidential ballot in North Reading really boils down, basically, to the choice for president and four controversial ballot questions. Most of the other offices on the ballot are unopposed races in which the incumbent has no opposition.

Because of the four ballot questions dealing with issues like legalized marijuana and lifting the state cap on charter schools, the election ballot voters will receive continues over onto the back. Voters should not forget to vote on both sides of the ballot.

As all the world knows, Election 2016 has come down to a choice for president between Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee and her Republican challenger Donald Trump and their running mates Timothy Kaine and Michael Pence. Voters can also opt for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Bill Weld or Green–Rainbow standard bearer Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka.

On the rest of the ballot, Sixth District Congressman Seth Moulton, a Salem Democrat, is unopposed for re–election. Fellow Democrat Peter Koutoujian, running for re–election as Middlesex County Sheriff, is the only name on the ballot. Angelo LaCivita is running as a write–in.

There is a Democrat–Republican race for Councillor from the Fifth District, where incumbent Democrat Eileen Duff of Gloucester faces opposition from Richard Baker of West Newbury.

On a more local level, Republican State Rep. Brad Jones Jr. of North Reading has no opposition for re–election to his seat representing the 20th Middlesex District. The same goes for State Senator Bruce Tarr, also a Republican, who represents the First Essex and Middlesex District.

The ballot also includes all 12 seats on the Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational District School Committee, representing the 12 cities and towns in the Metro Tech school district. Voters may cast a ballot for every position on the ballot, regardless of where they reside in the district.

North Reading’s Voke School Committee member Judith Dyment, 56 Northridge Dr., is one of the Metro Tech school board members seeking re–election for four years. She has no opposition. In fact, nine of the 12 school committee members on the ballot have no opposition and the Winthrop seat has no candidate. The contested seats are in Malden and Revere.

On to the binding statewide ballot questions, which have generated a tremendous amount of interest this year.

• Question 1 is proposed by initiative petition and would allow the State Gaming Commission to issue one additional license for a gaming establishment with no table games and a maximum of 1,250 slot machines. Critics have charged the question was written by one casino developer who wants to build a slots parlor next to Suffolk Downs in Revere.

A YES vote would allow the state Gaming Commission to license one additional slot machine gaming establishment at a location that meets certain criteria set out in the law. A NO vote would make no change in the current law regarding gaming.

• Question 2 would lift the current state cap on the number of charter schools in Massachusetts. A YES vote would allow for up to 12 new charter schools to be approved each year or expanding the enrollments of existing charter schools but not to exceed 1 percent of statewide public school enrollment. A NO vote would make no change in current laws relative to charter schools.

• Question 3 is an initiative petition requiring farm owners or operators in Massachusetts to provide more humane treatment of farm animals whose meat or food products are sold in Massachusetts, such as pigs, calves raised for veal and egg–laying hens.

A YES vote would prohibit any confinement of pigs, calves and hens that prevents them from lying down, standing up, fully expanding their limbs or wings or turning around freely. A NO vote would make no change in current laws relative to the keeping of farm animals.

• Question 4 would permit the possession, use, distribution and cultivation of marijuana in limited amounts by persons age 21 and older and would remove criminal penalties for such activities. It would provide for the regulation of commerce in marijuana, marijuana accessories, and marijuana products and for the taxation of proceeds from sales of these items.

The proposed law would authorize persons at least 21 years old to possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside of their residences; possess up to 10 ounces of marijuana inside their residences; grow up to six marijuana plants in their residences; give one ounce or less of marijuana to a person at least 21 years old without payment; possess, produce or transfer hemp; or make or transfer items related to marijuana use, storage, cultivation or processing.

• A YES vote on Question 4 would allow persons 21 and older to possess, use and transfer marijuana and products containing marijuana concentrate (including edible products) and to cultivate marijuana, all in limited amounts, and would provide for the regulation and taxation of commercial sale of marijuana and marijuana products.

• A NO vote would make no change in current laws relative to marijuana.