Voting described as slow in council, school elections
Election turnout fell by some 1,000 votes from the previous municipal elections, Cambridge officials said Tuesday night.
It was expected; candidates and voters were tweeting throughout the day bemoaning the lack of action at the city’s 33 polling places and reminding people,“Weather is spectacular, so why not take a walk and vote while you’re out.”
“Easy way to feel like your vote counts is to be in a precinct in which only 82 people have voted by 2:30 p.m.,” said a Twitter user identified as Brooks Lambert-Slude. “I happened to be at the station with one other guy who walked in at the same time. Workers exclaimed, ‘Voters!’”
Perhaps as a result, incumbent councillor Ken Reeves said at 3:45 p.m. that he was stopping by his headquarters “to call my constituents to make sure they’ve voted!” Other campaigns were making similar calls.
Voting picked up slightly toward the end of the workday and after work hours, according to three polling place wardens. The voting station at City Hall showed the strongest turnout — 890 votes by about 6:45 p.m., while at Vernon Hall Nursing Home on Dana Street there was only 350 votes some 10 minutes later. Down Massachusetts Avenue, at the firehouse in Lafayette Square, there were only 315 ballots counted by machine at that time, but more in an auxiliary box collected when the the machine jammed.
All in all, Cambridge seemed to follow a pattern of voter disinterest reported for municipal elections around Massachusetts.
There are 18 candidates running for nine City Council seats in Cambridge, including all incumbents, and 11 candidates for six School Committee seats, including all six incumbents.
In the municipal elections two years ago, 16,073 ballots were cast, an increase of 2,352 from four years ago. With 59,866 registered voters, that was an overall turnout of 27 percent, but Robert Winters of the Cambridge Civic Journal, a mathematician and educator, believes voter rolls are swollen with people who may have left the city long ago or simply don’t go to the polls. A more accurate estimate of legitimate voter turnout in the previous election was about 34 percent, he has said.
Also two years ago came a remarkable write-in campaign — Marjorie Decker’s $72,705.44 scramble to return to the council after missing a candidate filing deadline. With the help of the Service Employees International Union, which had members from as far away as Brockton and Framingham at polling places holding signs and passing out stickers, she pulled it off. One warden summed up the 2009 election by saying voting throughout the day had been average, meaning light, save for the write-ins. “We’re heavy in write-ins,” Sharon Edey said. “They’re up more than 100 percent,” meaning more than doubled.
The Decker effect kept reverberating. Although the first ballot box arrived at 8:35 p.m. Nov. 3, just a little over a half-hour after polls closed, write-ins and broken ballot scanners meant preliminary figures weren’t released by the Election Commission until more than three hours later. Election watchers were kicked out of the Central Square vote counting center at 12:40 a.m. with nothing resolved.
The write-in count and recounts dragged for another two days. (Truly final results weren’t in until overseas absentee ballots were looked at Nov. 13, or 10 days after Election Day.)
Update: Election Commission figures after 2011 voting showed 15,967 valid ballots cast out of some 60,350 registered voters for an official 26.4 percent turnout.