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State official projects 2.2 million will cast ballots in election, the lowest share of voters in decades

Secretary of State William F. Galvin held a media availability event to discuss topics related to Election Day at the State House Library on Monday.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

The state’s top elections official said Monday that he expects 2.2 million Massachusetts voters to cast ballots in the midterm elections, a “fairly low” number that would mark the lowest turnout by percentage in at least seven decades.

Secretary of State William F. Galvin said the public appears to have an “almost anticlimactic attitude” despite a potentially history-making election on Tuesday. As of Monday, more than 1 million people have already cast ballots, either by mail, in drop boxes, or during the early in-person voting period, according to state data.

Voters on Tuesday are assured to elect a new governor, attorney general, and auditor. But in many races, Democrats have for months enjoyed massive leads in polls, particularly in the open governor’s race. Attorney General Maura Healey, the Democratic nominee, is seeking to become the first woman to be elected governor in Massachusetts, and its first openly gay governor, against Republican Geoff Diehl.

Most voter interest, Galvin said, seems focused on the slate of four statewide ballot questions, including one that asks voters whether to raise taxes on some of the state’s wealthiest residents to generate potentially billions in new revenue. Competing committees have poured nearly $32 million into that campaign, plus millions more across the three others.

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“It almost makes this election more like a midterm exam than a midterm choice,” Galvin, a Brighton Democrat, quipped.

Should 2.2 million people cast ballots this year, the numbers would echo those from past elections when the governor’s office was open. In 2014, when Governor Charlie Baker was elected to his first term, about 2.19 million people voted, while 2.24 million voted in 2006 when Deval Patrick first won office, and 2.2 million voted in 2002, the year Mitt Romney won his only term.

But the population of registered voters then was far smaller than the nearly 4.9 million people registered to cast ballots now, meaning a smaller share of the electorate would participate in this year’s vote if Galvin’s projections hold.

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Should 2.2 million vote, it would account for 45 percent of registered voters. That would mark the lowest percentage for a state election since at least 1948, the earliest year included in data posted online by the secretary of state’s office.

It also would trail turnout from 2018, when Baker easily won reelection after more than 2.7 million people voted. And now people have far more flexibility in casting ballots after the state allowed universal mail-in voting and a two-week in-person voting period ahead of Tuesday’s election.

Of 1.1 million ballots requested for the general election, 839,465 have been returned, Galvin’s office said Monday afternoon. Another 188,169 people voted early in-person, pushing turnout so far to 21 percent of registered voters, according to his office.

Beside the statewide campaigns, there are few “seriously contested” down-ballot races, Galvin said. One election-tracking website tabbed the state’s legislative races as the least competitive in the country.

All nine of the state’s seats in the US House are also on the ballot, and all but one of the nine Democratic incumbents has a challenger. But none of the races “seem to be that intense,” Galvin said.

Polls will be open across the state on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and voters can also check online to find their polling place.

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Election officials will also count any ballots mailed domestically that are postmarked by Election Day and received by a local clerk’s office by 5 p.m. Saturday. But Galvin urged voters who have yet to mail their ballot to bring it to a local drop box to avoid it not reaching officials in time.

Of all registered voters, more than 60 percent are not enrolled in any party, compared to just 29.5 percent who are Democrats and less than 9 percent who are Republicans, according to state data.


Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him @mattpstout.