How low can voter turnout go?

Will Boston Bruins fans be so distraught that they won’t drag themselves to their neighborhood polling place to vote in the US Senate special election? Apparently, according to Secretary of State William Galvin, who cited the Bruins now sadly concluded championship series as one of the reasons that some people would not vote today.  Other reasons Galvin put forward were the summer heat, the Whitey Bulger trial, and the end of the school year.

Galvin fears a record low turnout. He based his concerns on requests for absentee ballots, which were down from nearly 50,000, compared to more than 63,000 in the 2010 contest between Martha Coakley and Scott Brown, a 22 percent drop.

Turnout for presidential elections has been a problem since the 1960s, but getting people to the polls for state and local contests, especially in off years, is even more difficult. Fair Vote, a national voting rights organization, argues that income is one important factor that determines who shows up on Election Day: 86 percent of people with incomes above $75,000 vote in presidential elections, compared to 52 percent of people with incomes less than $15,000.

That may explain why the Lexington Town Clerk Donna Hooper isn’t  too worried about turnout. She told the Lexington Patch that there has been “continuous interest” in the race. The median household income in Lexington is $136,610.

Will the high-income theory hold out in the Back Bay section of Boston? Voters in the city’s wealthiest neighborhood must choose a new state representative to replace Marty Walz who now heads Planned Parenthood Massachusetts. Except that it’s not much of a choice. The Democratic candidate Jay Livingstone is the only person on the ballot for the 8th Suffolk seat. An independent, Thomas Dooley III, has mounted a write-in sticker campaign. There is no Republican opponent.

But Galvin isn’t pulling excuses out of thin air. Fair Vote argues that voter motivation is “by far the biggest factor involving participation.”

The Senate race to replace John Kerry never really captured the attention of the Massachusetts electorate. Neither candidate was successful in ginning up sustained interest on the campaign trail. No one issue gained traction, and neither candidate made major missteps.

Attempts to rev up the personality contest between the bland but steady professional legislator and a telegenic but inexperienced former Navy Seal went nowhere. Even the fear of adding another Republican to the US Senate does not appear to have motivated Democratic voters as it did in the Elizabeth WarrenScott Brown race, which, of course, fell in a presidential election year.

Nevertheless, the reasons trotted out to explain the lack of voter motivation this time around are lame indeed. It’s a sad day for American democracy when a public elections official speculates that people may not exercise their right to vote because of competition for their attention from a sports team or the trial of an elderly alleged mobster.

If after years of sustained public awareness campaigns, health and safety officials can successfully stigmatize drinking and driving, perhaps election officials like William Galvin can devise public relations strategies that would compel even the most depressed Bruins supporters to find the energy to exercise one of their most fundamental constitutional rights.

                                                                                                                                                            –GABRIELLE GURLEY


In a CommonWealth Voices piece, Sen. Dan Wolf, Rep. Stephen Kulik, and smart growth advocate Andre Leroux urge the state to adopt pending legislation to revamp zoning laws covering development. The Globe weighs in today with a lengthy editorial voicing strong support for the Wolf-Kulik zoning bill.

The Patrick administration takes issue with the Boston Herald’s reports about Public Safety Secretary Andrea Cabral’s “light” schedule.


A ceremony to honor victims of the Boston Marathon bombings was held last night in Copley Square, the day before city officials planned to dismantle the memorial that was formed in the square. Shoes, shirts, and written messages from the memorial will be moved to the city archives.


Steve Wynn wants a sit-down with Boston Mayor Tom Menino.


East Bridgewater officials admit they “jockeyed” money around in the town budget to increase the former police chief’s salary and boost his pension.

Beach parking revenues in Gloucester are lagging more than $140,000 behind last year’s pace because of the rainy weather. The town charges nonresidents $25 per car and residents $15, the Gloucester Times reports.

Leominster city councilors spar with the city’s mayor over the municipal budget.


The US Supreme Court invalidates a key provision of the Voting Rights Act: Congress must come up with a new formula to monitor elections, since the old one is based on outdated data. Meanwhile, the Court punts on affirmative action and sends a case involving the University of Texas at Austin back to a lower court. This fall justices will hear a case appealing the constitutionality of a Massachusetts law that prohibits protesters from gathering within 35 feet of abortion clinics this fall

President Obama makes a major speech on climate change today and is expected to announce new measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The Obama administration is trying to get the NFL and NBA to get behind the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.


A Minnesota woman filed a suit against the Fall River Diocese, alleging she was abused when she was nine years old in 1970 by James Porter, the infamous former priest whose serial abuse of children was among the first and most high-profile in the clergy sex abuse scandal.


WBUR examines the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the signature accomplishment of Congressman Ed Markey’s career.


Quincy holds a groundbreaking ceremony for the start of the long-planned $1.6 billion downtown redevelopment.

Slate wonders whether whether cities should go with the latest fad: hiring innovation officers.

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Online donations to all nonprofits rose by 14 percent last year, according to two new studies from the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Boston’s Downtown Crossing will be getting a new grocery store.


A new coalition presses the Boston mayoral candidates to support greater school autonomy, CommonWealth reports.

The New Bedford School Committee will try to decide how to deal with a $4 million budget cut approved by the City Council.

Tennessee adopts a new teacher pay plan that rewards teachers based on the performance of their students or what the teacher teaches rather than degrees and experience, the Tennessean reports.


The MBTA is preparing to open two new stations in Dorchester on the Fairmount commuter rail line that runs from Hyde Park to South Station, WBUR reports.

The driver of a Worcester Regional Transit Authority bus has a medical issue and his bus slams into the side of a house in Auburn, NECN reports.


Efforts to roll back renewable energy incentives across the country fail to gain traction this yeare, Governing reports. Time previews President Obama’s speech on climate change.


Prosecutors introduce FBI files that say Whitey Bulger provided information to the agency over a 15-year period.

Warrants provide details of an investigation into illegal gaming at the Lucky 7 arcades at the Liberty Tree Mall and in Gloucester, the Salem News reports.


In an attempt to rid their site of offensive and hateful comments, the Patriot Ledger and Brockton Enterprise are eliminating anonymous comments, requiring readers to use their Facebook or Linkedin accounts to express their opinion.

The Knight Foundation awards open government news challenge grants and says its $5 million-a-year investment in the challenge may be coming to an end, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports.

The attorneys for New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez have blasted the Boston area media for stoking arrest rumors before authorities searched his house.