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Mass. could see huge voter turnout Tuesday, secretary of state says

Secretary of State William Galvin.
Secretary of State William Galvin.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Boston Globe

Since Jan. 1, nearly 20,000 Massachusetts voters have left the Democratic Party, either becoming unenrolled or joining GOP ranks. That’s among the signs that Republican turnout — and perhaps turnout overall — is likely to be very high for Tuesday’s presidential primary election, longtime Secretary of State William F. Galvin said. Maybe even historic.

Driven by a bitter, crude, and heavily publicized Republican race, Massachusetts could see the highest presidential primary voter turnout in the history of Commonwealth on Tuesday — even exceeding the 1.8 million people who voted in the 2008 presidential primary, Galvin said Monday.

If the 2008 GOP primary fight between former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, US Senator John McCain, and others was “a tennis match, this is kind of World Wrestling [Entertainment],” Galvin quipped. “It’s created that atmosphere of interest that obviously is, I think, going to be seen here in the turnout.”

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It’s impossible to know whether the voters who recently left the Democratic Party intend to support frontrunner Donald Trump — or if they’re actually planning to cast an anti-Trump vote. Galvin, a Democrat, said there have similar been shifts in the past, in 2000 for example, but they weren’t as high as this year’s. Galvin guessed the reason driving the party changers: “the Trump phenomenon.”

A spokesman for Galvin said comparable statistics were not available from 2008 and 2000, the last time there were open races for the White House.

Only those who are registered as Republican or unenrolled in any party may vote in the Republican primary between New York businessman Donald J. Trump, US Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, and Governor John Kasich of Ohio. Only those who are registered Democratic or unenrolled in any party may vote in Democratic primary between former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and US Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

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“I think we’ll probably go over the 1.8 [million] we had in 2008,” Galvin said, later adding that he believed eight years ago to be the all-time record.

That year, the secretary said, about 501,000 Republican votes were cast in the presidential primary. Tuesday, that number will probably exceed 700,000, he predicted.

One question mark for Galvin is the Democratic turnout, which could well determine whether Tuesday’s total number of voters marks a record.

The close, hard-fought race between then-US Senators Barack Obama and Clinton helped lead to a presidential primary turnout that exceeded 1.2 million on the Democratic side in 2008.

Galvin said he believes the different atmosphere — a different “chemistry” and missing the sense of history that Obama’s run brought — in the race between Clinton and Sanders may not drive the same level of turnout.

Still, he said, absentee balloting is actually exceeding the 2008 number — about 83,000 cast as of 9:30 a.m. Monday — and hits on the “Where do I vote?” feature on his website are high.

“All of those suggest a good turnout. I’m just not sure we’re going to meet that 1.2 [million],” he said. “That’s the question I have in my mind.”

Another plus for turnout: good weather. The forecasts for Boston, Worcester, and Springfield are mild and mostly clear.

Absentee balloting ended at noon Monday. Polls are open Tuesday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. across Massachusetts. Voters can check their registration statuses and polling locations on the secretary of state’s website: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/

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Listen to Galvin speak to journalists at the State House Monday about predicted turnout:


Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos and subscribe to his weekday e-mail update on politics at bostonglobe.com/politicalhappyhour