By Sten Spinella and Meg Britton-Mehlisch, The Berkshire Eagle
Residents in the county’s two largest communities have the opportunity to pick the leaders of North Adams and Pittsfield today by casting their ballot for mayor and city council. City clerks in both communities are hoping residents will rise to the challenge and show up.
In Pittsfield, City Clerk Michele Benjamin said she’s hoping at least 40 percent of the city’s 30,481 registered voters will participate in an Election Day that will determine whether City Council President Peter Marchetti or former City Council Vice President John Krol leads Pittsfield as mayor for the next four years.
Voting in Pittsfield takes place at the city’s 12 polling locations from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters can visit tinyurl.com/Pittsfieldvoting to check their polling location.
Voters will also have their pick of which of seven candidates will take the council’s four at-large council seats, who will be the new ward representative in Wards 2, 3, 6 and 7, the new members of the Pittsfield School Committee and weigh in on a nonbinding ballot question about the residency requirement for the city’s police chief, fire chief and public services commissioner. Benjamin is running unopposed for another term as city clerk.
While the response rate has been higher for the city’s absentee and early voting — 190 of the 200 absentee ballots requested were returned and 480 of the 640 vote-by-mail ballots have been submitted to the office — Benjamin is more cautious in predicting what Election Day will produce.
“It was like 43 percent four years ago and I was aiming high and hoping for 45 percent,” Benjamin said of her original goal for this year’s voter turnout. “I’ll be happy if we get 40 percent — I think anything over 40 [percent] is going to be a plus.”
Part of the anticipated low turnout may be chalked up to the lack of a state or federal race in this election cycle, the clerk said.
When there was a presidential decision to be made in 2020, Pittsfield had a 73 percent turnout rate out of 30,056 voters. When it was time to decide about state representatives and the county’s district attorney and sheriff last year, the city had about a 47 percent turnout out of 30,354 registered voters.
“Some people are funny and they think 'oh my vote doesn’t matter,’ but it really does — especially in a local election,” Benjamin said. “I mean your voice matters a lot because you’re electing the next group of leaders for two years or four years and their voice should be heard.”