Historically High Turnout As Voters Consider Tight Races

By Jess Bidgood

This Election Day, voters are out in force.

Secretary of State William Galvin told the Emily Rooney Show on Tuesday that voters in Boston’s suburbs are hitting the polls at an especially brisk pace. “In Marshfield, 25 percent (of the electorate) had already voted by noon,” Galvin told WGBH’s Emily Rooney, adding he’s heard of heavy turnouts in Franklin and Andover.

Galvin expects 2.4 million voters in all today. If that number is achieved, it would be the highest participation in a non-Presidential election since 1990.

But the city of Boston is not showing an unusually high turnout. “Boston actually had fewer voters at 9 a.m. than they did four years ago,” Galvin said, comparing this morning’s turnout to the 2006 mid-term elections.

Galvin chalked up the city’s lower turnout to its lack of a competitive Congressional race. Rep. Mike Capuano is running unopposed, while Rep. Stephen Lynch isn’t running a close race.

But the neck-and-neck congressional race between Republican Jeff Perry and Democrat Bill Keating is pulling high numbers of voters to the polls in the 10th Congressional District.

“The polling places I went to were very busy,” said Sean Corcoran, WGBH’s Cape Cod-based reporter. “People were kind of voting down party lines.”

In the 4th Congressional District, Don Shepard came out to vote to support his longtime congressman. "I care about the election,  obviously. The unexpected challenge that Barney Frank had, I wanted to support him," Shepard said."He's been an outstanding congressman for this area."

Back in Boston, at the Boston Public Library, voters were thinking about the governor’s race and the ballot questions. Gov. Deval Patrick is in a close race with Republican Charlie Baker, while Independent candidate Tim Cahill and Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein are both polling in the single digits.

Jonathan Head made his choice based on the timbre of what's been, at times, a dirty campaign season. "(I voted for) Deval Patrick," Head said, "He had less negative ads than Charlie Baker."

Some of Boston’s voters reflected the wave of anti-Democratic sentiment that has plagued Obama’s White House and the national Democratic Congressional majority. "I feel that government is too big, too intrusive and we need to take back some of our own money," Lisa Suel said. "I just feel we need a new direction."

Only in South Boston did WGBH reporters find voters channeling that anti-incumbent sentiment into a vote for Independent gubernatorial candidate Tim Cahill. “I’ve talked to several people who have cast their votes for Cahill proudly, or in one case, reluctantly,” said WGBH’s Phillip Martin. Cahill is from Quincy.

A polling place near Tufts University in Medford was almost totally devoid of college voters – a marked difference from the 2008 Presidential election, when youth voted in droves.

John Della Volpe, the director of polling at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, said enthusiasm for this election has been waning among young voters for months. He predicts only 27 percent of people between ages 18 and 24 would vote in this election.

This marks the first in several major elections that has seen lower participation of youth voters than the one before it. “(It’s) the reverse of a trend that has been building over time,” Della Volpe said.

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