Galvin predicts high voter turnout in primary
Nearly 375,000 ballots have already been cast
FIVE DAYS BEFORE state primary Election Day, nearly 375,000 ballots have already been cast, a figure Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin said likely predicts high voter turnout.
The Legislature just made mail-in voting permanent, after it was used temporarily during the COVID pandemic. As in 2020, mail-in voting is being more heavily used in wealthier towns. Galvin, in a pre-election press conference at the State House, said mail-in voting has been “remarkably successful” so far with notably high participation among unenrolled voters.
According to figures from Galvin’s office, as of Thursday morning, 31,553 people voted early in person. Just over 700,000 ballots have been mailed out and around 342,500 were already returned. That means 7.7 percent of the 4.8 million registered voters in Massachusetts have already cast their ballots.
Of the ballots that were mailed out, 576,000 were Democratic and 124,000 were Republican. There have been roughly 308,000 Democratic and 66,000 Republican ballots cast so far.
Galvin said he finds it notable that more than half of ballot requesters were unenrolled, and 22 percent of them asked for Republican ballots. Unenrolled voters can vote in either party’s primary, but Galvin said primaries often attract the party faithful, particularly on the Republican side. Broader participation among independents in the primary could have a significant impact on various races.
Galvin predicted that turnout will be between 800,000 and 850,000 in the Democratic primary and above 300,000 in the Republican primary.
That would be the highest number of ballots cast in any state primary since 1990, with the exception of 2020 when 1.7 million ballots were cast. Galvin said he expects turnout to be lower than 2020, since that year featured a heavily contested US Senate race between Democrats Ed Markey and Joe Kennedy and several congressional primaries. This year, there are no contested congressional primaries. In 2018, the last year the statewide offices like governor were on the ballot, there were 981,000 ballots cast.
Galvin said he is seeing geographic disparities. He predicted that turnout will be unusually high in Essex County, where there are multiple legislative contests, an open race for district attorney, and a challenger in a sheriff’s race. Two statewide candidates – auditor candidate Diana DiZoglio and lieutenant governor candidate Kim Driscoll – come from Essex County. Galvin said Berkshire County will likely have high turnout, while Plymouth County is expected to have lower turnout, due to the number of competitive races in each region.
Data from Galvin’s office shows trends similar to the 2020 election with voters in wealthier towns voting early by mail and voters in cities waiting until Election Day. Some of the highest rates of mail-in balloting are on Cape Cod. In Eastham, Brewster, and Orleans, more than a quarter of registered voters requested mail-in ballots. The towns of Concord, Harvard, Stow, Lincoln, Pelham, Lexington, and Arlington also saw around a quarter of voters requesting mail-in ballots. In contrast, only 7 percent of voters in Springfield, New Bedford, and Lowell obtained mail-in ballots. Galvin predicted that cities with active races, like Lawrence, Boston, Chelsea, Worcester, and New Bedford, will see higher turnout on Election Day.One down side to early voting is voters can no longer change their minds once a mail-in ballot is cast. That means anyone who voted for Quentin Palfrey before he dropped out of the attorney general’s race will not be able to pick their second choice, and anyone who voted early amid the unfolding sexual assault allegations against Suffolk district attorney candidate Ricardo Arroyo cannot reconsider. “They cannot vote again,” Galvin said.
Galvin traditionally does a pre-election press briefing before every major state election. This year’s briefing also gave him an additional chance to appear in public as the state’s top election official in a year when he is also on the ballot facing Democratic primary opponent Tanisha Sullivan.