Massachusetts primary drew 1.7 million voters, breaking 1990 turnout record
Massachusetts primary drew 1.7 million voters, breaking 1990 turnout record in first major election with new vote-by-mail law.
The Sept. 1 primary drew a historic 1.7 million voters in Massachusetts, breaking the previous record for the state primary’s turnout set three decades ago, Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin announced on Wednesday. Galvin said 1,427,868 votes were cast in the Democratic Primary, which had a highly anticipated the U.S. Senate election in which Ed Markey fended off Rep. Joe Kennedy III. Another 272,648 ballots were cast in the Republican Primary. The Libertarian Primary drew 4,871 ballots, and the Green-Rainbow Party drew 1,605 ballots. The Sept. 1 primary was already historic for several reasons. It’s the first major primary in the Bay State during the coronavirus pandemic and the first with a new vote-by-mail law in place, enabling hundreds of thousands to mail in ballots to avoid being exposed to COVID-19. The mail-in voting law will remain in place for the Nov. 3 general election before expiring at the end of the year. “I am thrilled that so many Massachusetts voters chose to participate in our State Primaries this year, whether it was by mail, during early voting, or in person on September 1st,” Galvin said. “Our local election officials worked tirelessly to make certain that everyone could vote safely and conveniently, ensuring that our primaries were a success, and I thank them for all of their hard work.” “I look forward to seeing even more voters cast ballots in November,” Galvin added. The last primary turnout record was in 1990 where 1,551,644 voters cast their ballots. In the 1990 gubernatorial primary, Boston University President John Silber beat former Lt. Gov. Francis Bellotti in the the Democratic Primary. William Weld, former U.S. Attorney, beat state rep. Steven Pierce in the Republican Primary. Weld would go on to defeat Silber and serve two terms as governor. Galvin did not say how many ballots were mailed in. In August, he said Massachusetts received more than 1 million vote-by-mail applications. On Aug. 30, Galvin said election officials statewide received more than 768,000 Democratic ballots and more than 88,000 Republican ballots statewide, most of which were mail-in ballots. “Going off of some of the previous public comments, I think we can estimate at this point that at least half of them were early voting ballots, especially mail-in ballots,” said Alex Psilakis, policy and communications manager at MassVOTE. “I think that bodes really, really well for November.” But some of those applicants voted in person after failing to receive a ballot or failing to mail it into the local election clerks before the 8 p.m. receipt deadline. In Boston, the absentee phone lines were flooded the morning of the election as poll workers called election officials to verify that someone cleared to vote-by-mail didn’t end up voting already. The concerns about mail-in and in-person voting, however, aren’t supposed to turn up as they did in the primary. The vote-by-mail law that took effect in July imposed a postmark deadline for mail-in ballots sent in for the Nov. 3 general election. Under the law, election clerks can continue to accept ballots postmarked on or before Election Day until 5 p.m. on Nov. 6. The Secretary’s office is working on mailing general election ballots for overseas voters ahead of the Sept. 19 deadline. Psilakis said despite the concerns, he believes election officials and voting rights organizations have the infrastructure and manpower to make sure the general election goes smoothly. If all goes well, he said, the election will likely increase the public’s appetite for making vote-by-mail a permanent option in Massachusetts elections. “The genie is out of the bottle," Psilakis said. "People can try to put it back in, but you can’t. Hopefully, this means vote by mail is here to stay.”
This story originally appeared on Mass Live. Check it out here!