AP NEWS

Voters begin casting early ballots in presidential primaries

February 24, 2020 GMT
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Loretta Haynes, of Cambridge, Mass., shows her sticker, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, at the Cambridge City Hall annex, after she voted on the first morning of early voting in Massachusetts. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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Loretta Haynes, of Cambridge, Mass., shows her sticker, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, at the Cambridge City Hall annex, after she voted on the first morning of early voting in Massachusetts. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Massachusetts voters began casting early ballots in the presidential primaries on Monday.

It’s the first time the state has allowed early voting ahead of primary day. Massachusetts is one of more than a dozen states holding their primaries March 3 — so-called Super Tuesday.

Sunny skies and unusually warm weather helped lure voters, who have until Friday to cast early ballots.

Candidates stepped up their appeal to local voters with campaign events and with the help of high-profile supporters, like actor Michael Douglas who helped open a campaign office for Democratic candidate Mike Bloomberg in Medford, where the candidate grew up.

The Massachusetts contest is particularly critical for Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren, one of the state’s two U.S. senators. Warren supporters could be see holding signs outside a voting location in her hometown of Cambridge.

Early votes can be cast in at least one location in communities across the state during the regular business hours of local election officials. Some cities and towns also have expanded hours and locations.

Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin helped kick off early voting by visiting a polling location in Brookline. His office said there was a steady turnout.

There are more than 4.4 million registered voters in Massachusetts. The majority — more than 55% — are not enrolled in any political party and can vote in any party’s primary.

The two top Democrats in the Massachusetts Legislature — House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka — are backing Warren.

Spilka voted by absentee ballot last week.

Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican who said he didn’t vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, said Monday he’s planning to vote on March 3, but declined to say which candidate he’ll support. Former Republican Gov. William Weld’s name is on the GOP presidential primary ballot in Massachusetts. Baker served under Weld.

“I’ve said for a while that we’re going to stay out of presidential politics and I meant it,” Baker told reporters.

Galvin has said he is expecting a healthy turnout during the early voting period.

He’s said that’s driven not just because of the competition on the Democratic ballot and the fact that there are candidates from Massachusetts — but also because of the vigorous support Trump has among his supporters in a state that typically leans Democratic in the general election.

The name of former Massachusetts Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick also remains on the ballot. Patrick has suspended his campaign.