By PAUL CHESSER
SPRINGFIELD, Mass.—Reflecting anecdotal observations from yesterday, voter turnout in about a dozen city precincts was light before business hours in the special Senate election this morning.
Campaign activity also was nearly non-existent, with one exception: a busy Latino community near the Riverview Community Room, which houses two polling wards and is surrounded by a few subsidized housing apartment buildings and tightly-packed neighborhood of smaller dwellings.
Heriberto Flores stood a few hundred feet from the poll entrance wearing a Vietnam Veterans ballcap and propping up a Martha Coakley campaign sign. His SUV idled nearby, and he chatted with fellow supporter and friend Jose Claudio. Both chatted amiably and eagerly about their efforts on the Democratic candidate's behalf, saying that Coakley's campaign visited their community and sought their votes.
"The Latino community needs the real personal touch," said Flores, a 40-plus-year resident of Springfield originally from Puerto Rico. He said he believed Coakley would carry on the legacy of late Sen. Ted Kennedy, whose office he said always excelled with citizens' services when they needed him. "They always responded to us," he said.
Both Flores and Claudio said they never saw anyone from Scott Brown's campaign the last few weeks, which might be understandable since both said they had never voted for a Republican in their lives. Their observations run contrary to other media reports about alleged lackluster campaigning by Coakley, as opposed to Brown's energetic efforts.
Only one Brown campaign sign was spotted at the approximately 30 polling places visited by Watchdog.org reporters in Springfield this morning. As for Coakley, five voting venues featured her signs: two handheld by supporters, with the others attached to fences or posts. No signs for independent candidate Joe Kennedy were spotted at any polls.
Coakley's campaign received an additional boost in Flores's community from three supporters circulating nearby neighborhoods in a car, calling upon residents via loudspeaker to get out and vote for her. Most of the pleas were proclaimed in Spanish, but in case anyone might get missed, her backers included a smattering in English. "We need your vote today for Martha Coakley" and "Let's keep Ted Kennedy's dream alive" were among the appeals.
But despite their efforts, Riverview turnout was no stronger than any other voting place before 10:00 a.m. Poll officials said they had 66 ballots cast, which aligned with reports from other sites.