Political candidates facing challenges in Thursday’s primary election will have to rely on their closest supporters to get out and vote, with officials saying a lackluster ballet statewide has them expecting low voter turnout.
Statewide, there are vacancies in only three state Senate seats and eight House of Representative seats.
Secretary of State William F. Galvin estimates voter turnout of 15 percent, and perhaps lower in some areas of the state, which he attributed to the lack of exciting statewide races. A typical election with even a low-key statewide race could generate a 30 percent turnout, while more than 50 percent of voters would turn out for a primary election in a race for governor, Galvin said.
“I can’t call 15 percent good, but I can call it expected,” said Galvin, who oversees elections in Massachusetts. “The candidates have recognized it’s their job to remind voters and get their supporters out to vote. You’re talking about people who follow politics closely, you’re talking about the supporters of individual candidates coming out only because there are races.”
One factor Galvin is considering in his prediction is the scheduling of the election on a Thursday instead of the traditional Tuesday. Galvin said the change was made because of timing: He is required by federal law to finalize the general election ballot at least 45 days in advance. But holding the primary later this month would not allow enough time for challenges to election results.
And Tuesday of this week would also have been problematic. To prepare, communities would have had to call in workers on the Monday holiday.
The state has held elections on a Thursday before, in 1988 and 1964, for similar reasons.
The change in date could lead to some voter confusion, but Galvin believes the turnout will be influenced more by local races, or the lack thereof.
Some areas of the state could see more voter turnout than others. For instance, in Western Massachusetts, there are several races that could boost voter interest.
US Representative Richard E. Neal has two Democratic opponents, Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. of Pittsfield, a former state senator and a Berkshire County registrar of deeds, and Bill Shein of Alford. Meanwhile, several legislative seats are being challenged.
“It’s a real fight,” Galvin said.
In Hampden County, candidates are vying to fill a vacancy for county clerk of courts and a seat on the governor’s council.
Other areas also have contested races. Three Republicans are battling for the congressional seat held by US Representative Barney Frank, who is retiring: Marine reservist and high-tech manager Sean Bielat, psychiatrist Elizabeth Childs, and dentist David Steinhof.
And two Democrats are competing for the Ninth Congressional seat that was created as a result of redistricting: US Representative Bill Keating, who represented the majority of the district in Congress before the district was redrawn, and Bristol District Attorney Samuel Sutter. That race has Republican candidates battling as well.
“That could intensify it a bit,” Galvin said.