Massachusetts voters making progress at polls Tuesday

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FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — Massachusetts voters could be making history Tuesday as they consider four ballot questions, which include legalizing recreational use of marijuana and the expansion of charter schools in the state.

By noon, the polling place at the Fall River Government Center, representing two precincts, had seen 450 people cast ballots. More than a million people in the state had taken advantage of early voting, which ended Friday.

Outside, supporters with picket signs urged voters to support Question 2, to expand charter schools. The proponents say public charter schools are a good choice for parents, often offer longer school days and more individual attention. Right now, some 33,000 children are on charter school wait lists in Massachusetts.

“I think the kids need a variety in education,” said Johnston Thach, a Fall River resident, who was part of the group of Question 2 supporters. “If they have more focus at a different institution, they will reap the benefits later in their life.”

Opponents say the state should focus on fixing under-performing schools before they let more privately-run charter schools open. They also argue that public district schools lose money when public charter schools are opened.

“It takes away from the public schools, the money and all the funding,” said Rhonda Holmes, who also lives in Fall River, but voted against Question 2. “I was against that.”

The other hot-button ballot issue, Question 4, would legalize recreational marijuana. If it passes, people 21 years and older may use and possess pot by mid-December, and stores can start selling it in January of 2018.

“I voted yes because there’s a lot of medical benefits,” said Thach. “I think there’s a lot of stigma and stereotypes that need to be broken.”

Holmes said she voted no on the marijuana question because she was worried about people driving while intoxicated on marijuana, and other cases where someone could get hurt where the drug might be involved. “I’m just highly against that.”

The board of elections in Fall River told Eyewitness News they had no major problems as of noon.

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