As Election Day crawled to a close, turnout continued to be anemic in the US Senate special election pitting veteran Democratic US Representative Edward J. Markey and Republican businessman Gabriel E. Gomez.
Precincts around the state showed sluggish numbers, even when the after-work crowd would typically flood their precincts.
As of 6 p.m., 69,980 voters had cast ballots in Boston—less than 20 percent—down sharply from the 120,139 who had voted in the city in the 2010 special election.
The compressed election, held because of the departure of John F. Kerry to become US secretary of state, has struggled to capture the public’s attention because of other news events in recent months, including the Boston Marathon bombings and, most recently, the Bruins’ bid for the Stanley Cup. The sizzling hot weather is another hurdle for many voters.
In Woburn this evening, turnout was slow. Voter Robert Naeye, who voted for Markey, summed up what may be the calculus for many voters today. “I did not vote for him with a great deal of enthusiasm. I think we need new leaders with a new vision,” he said, but added that Gomez just doesn’t bring the right vision.
“He’s inexperienced. He seems very partisan. I have a very strong disagreement with his view on a lot of issues,” Naeye said.
Gomez faces an uphill battle in the traditionally blue Bay State. Polls released since the April 30 primary have shown Markey, a veteran congressman backed by a large national fund-raising operation, ahead of Gomez, a political newcomer who has struggled to pick up support from national Republicans.
Turnout remained dismal throughout the day at various Boston precincts. Poll workers in West Roxbury said they turnout was far behind that of the 2010 Senate Special election, while at one voting location in Dorchester there were more people sitting in the park benches outside of the building than there were inside casting ballots.
“It could be worse,” said Pat Whalen, a veteran poll worker at the Bellflower Court apartment building, which serves two precincts, citing state senate elections he remembers with fewer voters. “But this is far from good.”
In Waltham, a city Republican Scott Brown won by 16 votes in 2010 but lost by almost 3,000 votes—more than 11 percent—in 2012, turnout at Waltham High School was steady in the afternoon. A police officer there said it had been that way all day, with higher turnout than he expected.
Interviews with more than twenty voters found an almost even split between those who voted for Markey and Gomez.
Kathryn Scott said she valued Markey’s almost 37-year tenure in Washington. “I would like an experienced Senator,” she said, explaining her vote for the Democrat.
Perry Krasow said his mind was made up when he learned about where Gomez stood on abortion.
“All I needed to know was that he was, personally, anti-choice,” Krasow said as he left the polling location where he voted for Markey.
At a Somerville precinct, Jim Dolan, a rare Republican in the precinct, wore a GOP elephant-print tie that he had picked up, incongruously, at the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum in Atlanta.
“I’m nervous. I’m supporting Gabriel Gomez today. Polls don’t look good, but I’m hoping for a late surge,” said Dolan, a 29-year-old economic development executive. “Ed Markey’s been in Congress for 37 years. It’s time for a change.”
The polls are open today until 8 p.m. Click here to see where to vote.