This year is the first time in eight years that voters can elect a completely new mayor—but for many voters, the fact that it is just an obligation to vote is what has brought them to the polls.
The idea of it being a civic duty is what had drawn many people to the polls Tuesday morning.
"I always vote and I'm always registered," said Linda Tarulli, who voted, as did her mother, at . "You need to be part of the vote as an American. You can't bellyache if you don't vote."
Tarulli's mother, Rena Strelec, said she feels the same way.
"It is my obligation," she said. "I have done my duty, and I know who I want to vote for."
Republican incumbent for council Matthew Moench said he hopes many of the residents feel this way about their duty to vote.
"It is important from a civic standpoint," he said. "I hope people come and there will probably still be a steady stream at 6 p.m. after work."
Bridgewater resident Ted Kowal, who voted at the on Finderne Avenue, said he believes it is his duty to vote, which is why he always does.
"I usually vote for my party unless I like someone else," he said. "But it is my civic duty to do so."
Still, some, including candidates, said they think the fact that it is a mayoral election is bringing out the voters, despite the fact that 2011 is technically an off year.
"I was number 52 for voting, and I'm generally number six," said Democratic candidate for mayor Jim Ventantonio. "I think there will be more interest this year because for the first time in eight years, there will be a new mayor. I think turnout will be slightly higher, although not monumentally."
Still, at the People Care Center by 9 a.m., there were already 20 people voting, higher than in past off years, poll workers said. They said there was actually already a line of people waiting to get in at 5:59 a.m., with the polls opening at 6 a.m.
Democratic candidate for council John Rooney said he had been around to about eight polling locations before 9 a.m., and there was a steady stream of people voting, including parents as they dropped off their kids and others heading off to work.
"There has been a steady flow, and it's great to see," he said. "The voters have a chance to make a decision, and today is the day of action."
"There are three candidates for mayor, and it is hotly contested, so there is a lot of effort and hopefully people will respond," he added.
Rooney said he had gotten a sense from speaking to people as he walked door-to-door over the past few weeks that many would be taking the opportunity to vote.
"People see what the stakes are going forward in all neighborhoods of town," he said. "They see the importance of the elected leaders."
And Tarulli said she believes the mayoral race makes today's elections more intriguing.
"I just made my decision of who to vote for last night after reading the biographies of the candidates," she said. "I want everything to remain good in town."
Hillside poll worker Alicia Delaney said she is seeing a steady stream of voters, particularly on this beautiful day.
"They all seem to want to take the time to vote," she said.
And poll worker Gaye Waage said she knows of people who want to vote because of the signs they saw around town.
"Someone said she came out because of all the signs [Independent mayoral candidate] George Jones had," Waage said.
Moench said he is not necessarily surprised by the seeming increase in voters this year.
"Bridgewater always sees an uptick because mayor is voted on in an off year," he said. "And it's an open seat, so there's a little more attention."
"The mayor is a strong position in Bridgewater, and residents will see a change no matter what," he added.
Moench said it wasn't until the last weeks before the election that he started to see more interest in participating.
"As it got closer to the end, I saw people more interested and they saw how important this is," he said. "I think the turnout will be higher than normal."
Keep with Patch for the rest of the day for more voter reactions, and the up-to-the-minute results in the evening.