BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts voters have handed the state’s 11 electoral votes to Democrat Hillary Clinton as they weighed four thorny ballot questions, from expanding the number of charter schools to legalizing marijuana.
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The state’s support of Clinton was expected. The last GOP presidential candidate to win the Bay State was Ronald Reagan in 1984. Neither Clinton nor Republican Donald Trump have spent much time campaigning in the state.
Voter turnout was high. In Boston, the voter turnout as of 6 p.m. was over 227,000 — more than 12,000 above the 2012 tally at the same time. This year was also the first time Massachusetts voters could cast their ballots early. More than 1 million votes were cast before Election Day.
Liz Burg, a 22-year-old web designer in Cambridge, voted Tuesday morning at Cambridge City Hall. She’s a Democrat and voted for Clinton.
“Today I voted for Hillary Clinton because to me it’s an obvious choice. It’s either freedom for all or not freedom for all,” Burg said. “For me, I don’t feel safe with any other option. And it would be awesome to see the first female president tonight.”
Civil rights groups reported long lines, broken voting machines and other common Election Day issues across the state, but said election officials appear to be promptly responding to them as they come up.
Meryl Kessler, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, said there were reports of “excessively long lines” at polling locations in Boston and that broken voting machines were reported in Boston, Springfield, Lawrence, New Bedford and Chelsea.
The most hotly contested battles were over the four ballot questions.
Question 2 asked voters whether to allow the state board of education to approve up to 12 new or expanded charter schools each year. Supporters and opponents of the question have poured close to $40 million into the campaign.
Backers of the question, including Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, say it will help expand educational opportunities, especially to lower income areas and minority students. Critics, including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, say it will drain money away from traditional public schools.
Equally contentious is Question 4, which asks voters to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
The question’s supporters say it would let those 21 years old or older possess up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational use and allow the home cultivation of up to 12 marijuana plants.READ MORE: 'Plan For Alternatives': Toys May Be In Short Supply This Holiday Season
“Our prison systems are filled with people with petty crimes,” said Alex MacRae, a 29-year-old South Boston resident who voted in favor of the question. “And I think this would help to start to solve that problem. It’s a big issue that we’ve got to tackle, but it’s a step in the right direction to not put those people in jail.”
But opponents, including Baker, Walsh and Attorney General Maura Healey, worry that legalizing pot could open the door to more dangerous drugs. They say they’re particularly concerned given the state’s ongoing opioid overdose crisis.
“It’s just a gateway drug,” James Dalabon, a 53-year-old South Boston resident and recovering alcoholic. “That’s how people start: When they start doing drugs, they start with marijuana, then they go with alcohol, then they go with cocaine, then they eventually do the heroin. I voted no on that.”
There are also two other ballot questions in Massachusetts.
Question 1 asks voters to authorize the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to license a second slots parlor in the state, likely located near the Suffolk Downs race track. By a large margin, voters in Revere have said no to a proposed gambling hall in the city.
Question 3 would ban the sale of eggs and other food products that come from farms where animals are confined to overly restrictive cages. Supporters, including the Humane Society of the United States, say the question aims at banning what they portray as cruel conditions for farm animals. Critics say it will add to the cost of eggs and other products.
There are also a handful of congressional contests, with several Democratic incumbent facing challengers.
In the state’s 1st Congressional District, which covers much of the western part of the state including Springfield, Rep. Richard Neal is facing off against Libertarian candidate Thomas Simmons and Independent candidate Frederick Mayock. In the 3rd Congressional District, which includes Lowell and Lawrence, Rep. Niki Tsongas is hoping to fend off Republican challenger Ann Wofford.
In the 4th Congressional District, which stretches from Brookline and Newton to Taunton and Fall River, Rep. Joe Kennedy is up against Republican David Rosa. In the 8th Congressional District, which includes portions of Boston, Brockton and Quincy, Republican William Burke is hoping to unseat Rep. Stephen Lynch.
In the 9th Congressional, which covers Cape Cod, District Rep. William Keating is facing four challengers: Republican Mark Alliegro, Independent Paul Harrington and two candidates not affiliated with a party, Christopher Cataldo and Anna Grace Raduc.
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Associated Press reporters Collin Binkley and Philip Marcelo in Boston contributed to this report.