Voters in more than 50 communities outside Boston went to the polls today to choose mayors, aldermen, school committee members and decide a handful of ballot questions.
Races to watch in the region included mayoral contests in Lawrence, Newton and Quincy and a question in Revere on whether to distribute contraceptives in high school. In Lowell, voters will decide on a referendum that would scrap Lowell’s at-large system and replace it with proportional voting.
Poll workers in Lawrence reported around 1 p.m. that voter turnout is looking good so far and that they expect a rush after 5 p.m., when residents return from work, said Richard Reyes, Lawrence Election Division senior clerk.
"We could possibly be looking at a 40 to 45 percent turnout," Reyes said. "It's good. It was like 30 percent [for the preliminary election] Sept. 22."
Around the region, here are the higher profile contests:
Newton voters will chose between state Rep. Ruth Balser and Setti Warren, a former aide to US Sen. John F. Kerry in a contest to succeed mayor David Cohen after 12 years in office.
Lawrence voters are choosing between William Lantigua, who is seeking to become the state's first Latino mayor, and David C. Abdoo.
South of Boston, Quincy voters will see a rematch of the 2007 mayor's race, with incumbent Thomas P. Koch and challenger William J. Phelan concluding one of Quincy’s most rancorous mayoral elections in decades. They also have accused each other of favoritism and deceptive campaigning.
In Brockton, City Councilor Linda M. Balzotti hopes to make history by becoming the first woman elected Brockton mayor. Incumbent James E. Harrington would like to make some history, too, with perhaps the biggest comeback ever in a Brockton mayor’s race.
Ballot questions also are generating heat, including in Revere, where voters will decide whether to stop allowing high school students to obtain contraceptives at a school-based health clinic; in Malden, where a proposal to eliminate the city’s pay-as-you-throw trash program is on the ballot; and in Saugus, where voters will consider whether to change the town’s form of government.
Currently in Revere, students enrolled in the clinic can request contraceptives with the consent of their parents. The ballot question calls for suspending that policy and establishing an advisory council to evaluate the health risks and benefits of contraception and abstinence.
The group Malden Taxpayers For Accountability launched a successful citizens’ petition to put a repeal of the city’s year-old trash fee on Tuesday’s ballot. Proponents of the fee, including Mayor Richard C. Howard, said the revenue has allowed the city to avoid making cuts in other services and personnel.
"I do believe that erasing this program will cause this council and my office to make some extremely difficult budget cuts,’’ Howard said recently.
In Saugus, the charter plan would replace a 50-member town meeting with a 27-member town assembly while maintaining the Board of Selectmen - to be known as the Select Board - and the town manager.
Election officials in communities featuring high-profile contests and ballot questions are predicting lively turnouts.
“I think it’s going to be a little higher than usual for our local elections,’’ said Joanne Rappa, Saugus town clerk. “There seems an awful lot of interest in the charter question.’’
Rappa said town elections in Saugus typically draw 30 percent of eligible voters, but she predicted this year’s turnout will be 35 percent to 40 percent.
Elsewhere, the Lynn and Woburn races have commanded attention because the incumbents finished second in September preliminaries.
In Lynn, City Clerk Mary Audley expects about a 30 percent turnout - which she said is high for a municipal election - sparked by the challenge to Mayor Edward J. Clancy Jr.
“I think there’s quite a bit of interest,’’ she said of the mayor’s race, which pits Clancy against City Councilor Judith Flanagan Kennedy. “There’s a lot of talk going around, a lot of phone calls to the office asking about it. There seems to be a little bump in absentee ballot requests.’’
In Woburn, where Mayor Thomas L. McLaughlin is being challenged by City Councilor Scott D. Galvin, City Clerk William Campbell predicts 45 percent of city voters will cast ballots, about on par with turnouts in the city’s other elections with competitive mayoral races.
Kennedy outpaced Clancy by 207 votes in Lynn’s preliminary, despite running as a write-in candidate. In Woburn, Galvin emerged seven votes ahead of McLaughlin.
In Lawrence, where the mayor’s seat is open, the city’s bilingual election coordinator, Rafael Tejeda, anticipates a turnout of 40-50 percent, which would match levels during other years with mayoral fights.
He said the number could edge higher if the two contestants, state Representative William Lantigua and City Councilor David C. Abdoo, are especially diligent in their last-minute voter outreach.
The Lawrence race has been widely watched because a victory by Lantigua - who finished first in a 10-way preliminary - would make him the first Latino mayor in the state. Lantigua finished just 116 votes ahead of Abdoo in the preliminary for the open post.
In Marlborough, Mayor Nancy Stevens is campaigning for a third term against challenger Joseph Collins.
Two well-known contenders, City Councilors Donna D. Holaday and James E. Shanley, are vying to become mayor of Newburyport, where John F. Moak chose not to run for reelection.
In other local mayoral races, Beverly incumbent William F. Scanlon Jr. is opposed by City Councilor John J. Burke, while Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini faces former city councilor John A. Michitson.
Amesbury incumbent Thatcher W. Kezer is competing with former municipal councilor Alison M. Lindstrom, who unsuccessfully challenged him in 2007.
Peabody Mayor Michael J. Bonfanti is facing Russell P. Donovan, who has run unsuccessfully for city councilor on two occasions. In Salem, Mayor Kimberley L. Driscoll is being challenged by Kenneth A. Sawicki, who has run unsuccessfully for mayor twice.
Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk is facing Daniel Ruberti, who is mounting a write-in campaign after finishing third in the preliminary. The second-place finisher in the preliminary, City Councilor Sharon George, dropped out of the race.
Three local mayors are unopposed in their reelection bids: Carlo DeMaria Jr. of Everett, Michael J. McGlynn of Medford, and Joseph A. Curtatone of Somerville.
Winthrop is featuring a three-way race for the open seat of Town Council president. Contending are former selectwoman Susan R. Bolster; Barbara A. Survilas, an unsuccessful candidate for council president in 2005; and Jeffrey R. Turco, a first-time candidate for municipal office.
In another ballot question, Everett will vote on whether to create a charter commission.
-- Globe Correspondents John Laidler, Robert Preer, James O'Brien and Calvin Hennick contributed to this report.