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Mass. reports record voter turnout, embrace of mail-in voting

Richard Moran was accompanied by his granddaughter, Gwendolyn, 3, while voting at Kenny Elementary School in Dorchester on Election Day.
Richard Moran was accompanied by his granddaughter, Gwendolyn, 3, while voting at Kenny Elementary School in Dorchester on Election Day.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Massachusetts saw record turnout in the Nov. 3 general election, with 76 percent of registered voters participating and nearly two-thirds of their ballots sent by mail or cast early, as the coronavirus pandemic forced many to reconsider voting habits.

More than 3.6 million ballots were cast in Massachusetts, where there are more than 4.8 million registered voters, said Debra O’Malley, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State William F. Galvin, in an e-mail.

Nearly 42 percent of those who voted mailed their ballots, and more than 23 percent went to early-voting centers. Slightly more than 35 percent of voters cast ballots on Election Day, according to data the secretary of state’s office compiled Thursday after election results were certified by local officials.

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Galvin told the Globe on Election Day that he expected a little more than 3.6 million votes to be cast — up from the state’s previous record of nearly 3.4 million set in 2016. The final tally was 3,657,972, his office said.

Only .8 percent of the absentee ballots submitted were rejected, or just over 20,000 total ballots, and more than a quarter of those were not accepted because the voter had already voted in person, O’Malley said. In this year’s state primary, 1.7 percent of received ballots were rejected.

Across the country, voter turnout hit a 50-year high this month, breaking the record set by the 2008 election of Barack Obama, as Americans made their choice in the contentious race between former vice president Joe Biden and President Trump, who continues to contest the election after losing to Biden by 74 electoral votes.

Turnout in Boston was just under 69 percent, with 295,297 of 429,994 registered voters casting ballots. About 38 percent voted by mail, 19 percent voted early, and 43 percent voted on Election Day, according to community data that O’Malley provided.

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Cambridge saw nearly 75 percent turnout: 55,039 of 73,414 registered voters. Cambridge residents embraced mail-in voting, with more than 51 percent of participating voters mailing ballots. About 26 percent voted early, and 23 percent cast ballots on Election Day, the data shows.

In Worcester, 71,996 of 111,344 registered voters cast ballots, for a turnout just shy of 65 percent. About 39 percent of Worcester voters mailed ballots, 20 percent voted early, and 41 percent went to the polls Nov. 3, according to the data.

Springfield saw the state’s lowest turnout, at just under 53 percent, as 55,981 of 106,295 registered voters participated — more than half on Election Day, when 53 percent went to the polls. A little more than 32 percent of Springfield voters sent ballots by mail, and over 14 percent voted early, the data shows.

The state’s highest turnout was in the small town of Harvard, where 4,157 of 4,569 registered voters cast ballots — nearly 91 percent. More than 45 percent cast ballots by mail, 17 percent voted early, and 38 percent voted on Election Day, according to the data.


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.