From the Berkshires to parts of Boston yesterday, voters in more than one-third of Massachusetts' cities and towns delivered a resounding protest against the Iraq war.
With 52 percent of the votes counted in the 36 House districts where an anti war question appeared, voters instructed their state representatives, 147,202 to 99,140, to approve a resolution calling on President Bush and Congress to end the war immediately and bring the troops home.
Members of the Albertz family including Arnie Albertz (L), a Vietnam war veteran, his father Arnold Albertz, a World War II veteran, with mother and wife Lorraine Albertz, display signs encouraging potential voters to vote for candidates opposed to the war in Iraq, in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin November 6, 2006. REUTERS/Allen Fredrickson (UNITED STATES)
The nonbinding question, which appeared on the ballot in all or part of 139 municipalities, was one of the nation's most ambitious antiwar referendums considered yesterday, said Paul Shannon, statewide coordinator of the ballot effort for the American Friends Service Committee.
"I'm just absolutely thrilled that so many people are starting to see through the lies about this war," he said. "You see people pushing from the ground floor up, putting pressure on the top. There is a real groundswell that is insisting that the government change its policy absolutely, radically."
The numbers around the state buttressed that sentiment. In Holyoke, voters in the Fifth Hampden District approved the question, 5,354 to 2,830. With 10 of 12 precincts tallied in the Fifth Middlesex District, which extends to Natick, Sherborn and Millis, voters opted for an immediate end to the war, 7,363 to 5,040.
In the returns released late last night, only six communities where the issue was on the ballot -- Dover, East Longmeadow, Holland, Hubbardston, Montgomery, and Princeton -- had voted against the referendum.
Tony Palomba, who worked on the referendum effort in Watertown, said volunteers who held signs at the town's eight polling stations received "a lot of thumbs-up and a lot of nods."
"The referendum for us was one effort in a series of efforts over the last 3 1/2 years to end the war, and it seemed like a very timely thing," said Palomba, who is president of Watertown Citizens for Environmental Safety. "This vote allows people to send a message."
Governor Mitt Romney's office has criticized the initiative as premature and impractical. "To pull out troops precipitously now would lead to a humanitarian disaster in Iraq," the governor's spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, had said.
Irene Getman of Waltham, whose grandson is serving with the Army in Baghdad, lobbied for the referendum outside the Carter Street polling station despite a sore throat. "I think we've been there too long, we've lost too many boys, and it just keeps getting worse and worse," Getman said.
In Waltham, voters in the 10th Middlesex District signaled their opposition to the war, 9,374 to 4,734.
"This is just one day in a larger, bigger picture of a grass-roots effort," said Barbara Chalfonte of Easthampton, who coordinated the referendum effort in Western Massachusetts. "Here's a direct measure of the way people feel about the war in Iraq."
Shannon said the measure's supporters "would immediately find out how soon we can possibly introduce a measure into the state Legislature."
Elsewhere in the nation, communities in Wisconsin and Illinois also had anti war measures on the ballot, Shannon said.
Copyright 2006 Boston Globe