Galvin predicts low turnout in low-intensity election 

Says ballot questions provoking more interest than candidates 

SECRETARY OF THE COMMONWEALTH Bill Galvin on Monday predicted low turnout in what he described as a low-intensity election this Tuesday, with voters more motivated by the ballot questions than by any of the candidates in the top statewide races.  

“It doesn’t seem at this point there’s tremendous enthusiasm to this election,” Galvin said at his traditional pre-election press conference, held in the State House Library. 

Galvin, a Democrat who himself is on the ballot facing Republican challenger Rayla Campbell, in part blamed the candidates themselves for a lack of voter focus on the races. “None of us, including me, has particularly engaged our opponents, not necessarily because we’re unwilling to, but it’s almost as if two different conversations have been held from each different side,” Galvin said. 

Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey is competing with Republican former state representative Geoff Diehl for the governor’s office, and there are contested races for attorney general, auditor, and secretary of state. Galvin is the only incumbent running for any of those offices. But polling shows the Democrats are far ahead of their Republican challengers in each race, with the possible exception of the auditor’s race where Democrat Diana DiZoglio still leads Republican Anthony Amore but by a smaller margin. 

Galvin predicted total voter turnout of 2.2 million, out of the 4.88 million registered voters in Massachusetts. That would be far lower than the 2018 general election when 2.7 million voters cast ballots, and similar to the 2014 election with just under 2.2 million voting. The 2014 election featured a hotly contested gubernatorial contest but no early or mail-in voting. The 2018 election occurred at a time when there was a national focus on voting based on dissatisfaction with the Trump administration. 

Galvin said he believes Massachusetts residents felt “a tremendous sense of obligation to vote” in 2018. “I wish I could say that is true today here in Massachusetts, but it isn’t,” he said. 

Since 2020, Massachusetts has allowed no-excuse early voting by mail, which has generally been popular among older, suburban, and Democratic voters. So far, 776,000 ballots have been returned out of 1.1 million requested. Another 187,000 people voted early in person. Galvin predicted that once all the mail-in ballots are returned, just over 1 million people will have voted early. 

Galvin said many races were more competitive in the primary than the general election. Based on calls to his office and anecdotal evidence, he has seen the most interest so far in the four statewide ballot questions. These relate to raising the tax rate on income over $1 million, imposing spending rules on dental insurers, adjusting the liquor licensing process, and repealing a law granting driver’s licenses to immigrants without legal status. 

“It almost makes this election more like a midterm exam than a midterm choice,” Galvin said of the more complicated ballot questions voters will be faced with. He said the expensive – and often contradictory – ads in the ballot campaigns, particularly on the tax rate and dental questions, have “led to fair amount of voter confusion.” 

Geographically, Galvin predicted that Barnstable County will have some of the highest turnout because of open races for sheriff, district attorney, and some local legislative seats. There could also be some turnout boosts from the Plymouth district attorney’s race and races for open state Senate seats to replace Longmeadow Sen. Eric Lesser, Worcester Sen. Harriette Chandler, and Pittsfield Sen. Adam Hinds. While some members of the all-Democratic congressional delegation have drawn challenges, the incumbents all appear to have heavy advantages, and the challengers have generally not been running television ads and have not attracted spending from the Republican National Committee. 

“We’ve seen more activity about New Hampshire on our broadcasts than Massachusetts,” Galvin said. 

Galvin suggested that low registration in both parties – 9 percent of voters are registered Republican and 29.5 percent are registered Democrat, with 60.5 percent unenrolled – suggests that voters tend to turn out only when they are engaged by a particular campaign. 

Galvin also stressed the importance of voting in a climate where former President Donald Trump has spawned years of questions about the accuracy of election results, which Galvin called “greatly concerning.”  

“The fact that it’s been two years of having these baseless allegations really speaks to the depths which it has penetrated our political consciousness and our society,” Galvin said. Galvin said in Massachusetts that has mostly taken the form of lawsuits and questions, not the threats of violence against election workers that have occurred in other parts of the country.  

Meet the Author

Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

“If you vote for no other reason than just to vote…to affirm your personal confidence in the voting process, that’s a good reason,” Galvin said. 

Galvin said he has published a memo establishing rules for poll observers and has been in touch with the state parties, particularly the Republican Party, which is organizing an effort to send observers to polling place. “Observers are there to observe,” Galvin said. “They’re not there to interfere, they’re not there to question procedure.”