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Here’s the math: How Zakim, at 34 years old, missed 16 elections

Boston City Councillor and candidate from Massachusetts Secretary of State Josh Zakim campaigns this summer in Chelmsford.
Boston City Councillor and candidate from Massachusetts Secretary of State Josh Zakim campaigns this summer in Chelmsford.(Jim Davis/Globe Staff)

It was, arguably, the most unanticipated blow in a heated Democratic primary for secretary of state. In the midst of their first televised debate, Secretary of State William Galvin questioned how Josh Zakim, a Boston City Councilor, could run for a post that oversees elections when he has failed repeatedly to vote in elections himself?

“You were registered . . . and you didn’t vote,” Galvin told a flustered Zakim, pointing out he didn’t cast a ballot in former US senator John Kerry’s 2004 run for the presidency, or former Governor Deval Patrick’s 2006 primary campaign.

The charge, and the footage that followed, resulted in a pointed campaign ad detailing Josh Zakim’s spotty voting record.

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“No-Show Zakim,” a voiceover in the ad proclaims. “He doesn’t bother to vote, let’s not vote for him.”

Days later, Galvin followed with the campaign ad on network TV, pointing out Zakim has not voted in 15 elections.

Jon Tapper, a spokesman for Zakim, released a statement saying Zakim has not missed an election since he registered in Boston in 2011, and he took issue with Galvin’s belittling tone.

“It’s somewhat surprising that Secretary Galvin didn’t just make an ad yelling at Josh to ‘get off my lawn,’ ” Tapper said.

So, how does it add up that a politician, at 34 years old, missed 15 elections?

Well, it’s actually 16, according to Galvin’s campaign, which tallied every state primary and election, federal election, and local election that Zakim missed in Newton, where he was raised and lived before he changed his voting address to Boston in 2011. Zakim’s campaign does not dispute the tally.

Zakim actually voted in the first election that occurred after he registered in January 2002, not long after his 18th birthday, for an override question in Newton in April that year, according to the tally. Then, he missed that year’s state primary, though he voted in the general election.

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From 2003 through 2006, he missed nine straight elections — including those primaries with Kerry and Patrick — though he said during the debate that he was attending college in Pennsylvania for much of that time. He started in fall 2002, graduated in spring 2006, and he did not vote by absentee ballot in that time, he acknowledged.

Zakim started at the Northeastern University School of Law in fall 2006. In 2007, he also missed three city elections in Newton, as well as a city special election and the state primary in 2008. (He voted in federal elections that year, when President Obama won his first term). He missed the Newton city election in November 2011 as well, and shifted his registration to Boston the following month, where he has voted consistently since, both campaigns confirmed.

Zakim won his spot on the council in 2013.


Milton J. Valencia can be reached at milton.valencia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.