Primary turnout topped or neared 50% in many county communities

  • Voters during the primary elections in Westhampton Tuesday, September 4, 2018.

  • People cast ballots during the primary election in Westhampton, Tuesday.

  • Ted Mone and Adrienne Terrizzi check in Magda Ahmed of Amherst and give her the correct ballot at the Bangs Center in Amherst during the primary elections Tuesday, September4, 2018. Ahmed was there with Yasmin Omar, visiting from Egypt and showed her the process of voting in America.

Staff Reports
Published: 9/7/2018 10:23:39 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Up and down the Pioneer Valley, Tuesday’s state primary saw a much higher voter turnout than four years earlier, possibly a reflection of the competitive races for state offices, as well as a growing interest in participating in electoral politics following the 2016 presidential election.

Williamsburg Town Clerk Brenda Lessard said she thinks voting is changing, and that higher turnouts will be seen in most elections going forward, attributing this to an awareness of the importance of voting that has manifested itself across the country since Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.

“The voters in Williamsburg are very vigilant,” Lessard said. “That being said, primaries tend to stink.”

But not this year. Turnout in town was 44 percent, with 880 of the 1,984 registered voters casting ballots. Of these voters, 799 voted in the Democratic primary, 79 voted in the Republican primary and two voted in the Libertarian primary.

The high-turnout primary, Lessard said, also had many first-time voters, and a lot of families came out with their children.

In Northampton, turnout in the primary was 45 percent, with 9,285 of the city’s 20,611 voters participating. This was 15 points higher than City Clerk Pamela Powers estimated before the election, which was already a higher prediction than the 25 percent turnout she said is typical for a state primary.

“We did a lot of heroic stuff that night,” said Powers, attributing the need for heroics to the large number of voters. “It was crazy.”

Of Northampton’s voters, 8,828 voted in the Democratic primary, where four city residents were competing for the state Senate seat previously held by Stanley Rosenberg of Amherst.

Easthampton City Clerk Barbara LaBombard said more than one-third of voters came out to the polls.

“Turnout was excellent compared to pretty much every primary in recent memory,” LaBombard said.

The city saw a 34 percent voter turnout, with 3,544 votes cast in the Democratic primary, 526 in the Republican primary and 14 in the Libertarian primary.

Liberals mobilized

Ray La Raja, a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, said there is little doubt that many of the region’s voters have been energized by the current occupant of the White House.

“It (turnout) was better than usual because liberal constituencies have been attentive and mobilized because of the Trump administration,” La Raja said.

Though he doesn’t have exit poll data for the primary, La Raja said his discussions with various groups indicated that the mobilization was especially strong for women, minorities and younger voters — sometimes referred to as the Obama coalition.

Leading up to the primary, there was criticism of William Galvin, secretary of the commonwealth, for the scheduling of the election for the day after Labor Day, and La Raja said turnout likely would have been even higher if the primary could have been Sept. 11.

Still, the turnout totals were impressive just about everywhere. In Hatfield, 40.3 percent of registered voters participated, a figure that Town Clerk Lydia Szych described as “very high” and may have been driven partially by the presence of resident and former Select Board member Diana Szynal.

“People normally don’t show up at primaries but because you had a local person running in a race from Hatfield and you had two major seats up for grabs, then a lot of people came out,” Syzch said.

Szynal lost to Lindsay Sabadosa of Northampton in the race to succeed the late Peter Kocot as the representative for the 1st Hampshire District.

Council vote

Amherst also had a turnout that was much higher than in 2014. For the primary, 5,516 out of 20,579 registered voters participated, for a turnout of 26.8 percent. Four years earlier, 3,031 out of 19,777 registered voters participated, for a turnout of 15.3 percent.

In addition to choosing between Mindy Domb and Eric Nakajima to be the next 3rd Hampshire District representative, Amherst voters also had the opportunity to participate in a second election, the preliminary vote to narrow the field of candidates for the first Town Council that will be seated in December.

Despite the high turnout for a state primary, though, the turnout numbers actually fell short of the town’s March election, when 6,043 ballots were cast, representing 28.72 percent of the 21,040 voters qualified to vote in the election.

Still, Select Board member Connie Kruger said she appreciated that the town scheduled the two elections to coincide, and she observed a steady stream of voters at the two polling sites where she was a poll watcher.

“There was a lot of interest, there was a lot of activity,” Kruger said.

In South Hadley, the town’s unofficial results show that 3,214 of 11,264 registered voters cast a ballot, for a turnout of about 29 percent. That was significantly higher than the 16.7 percent turnout the town achieved in the state primary in 2014.

Prior to the release of official statistics, Belchertown Assistant Town Clerk Theresa Rothwell said turnout “did appear to be a little more than expected,” which proved to be an accurate prediction; Belchertown saw a 16.4 percent voter turnout, with 1, 707 out of 10,423 registered voters participating. This year’s numbers also represented an increase from the approximate 13 percent turnout seen in the 2014 state primary, where 1,241 of 9,309 registered voters cast a ballot.

Granby Town Clerk Kathy Kelly-Regan said her community saw a turnout of about 22 percent, or around 1,400 ballots cast, which she described as “pretty good for a primary.”

“I would say it was a couple hundred more (voters) than I thought,” she added.

Cummington Town Clerk Donna Jordan reported of the 647 total registered voters, 316 voted Tuesday, setting the town’s turnout at 48.84 percent.

“It’s the best it’s ever been in Cummington, for a primary,” Jordan said.

Westhampton saw 38.8 percent turnout, with 498 out of a total of 1,283 registered voters casting ballots. There were 399 votes for Democrats, 98 votes for Republicans and one for Libertarians.

Worthington Town Clerk Katrin Kaminsky said the town saw 503 of its 977 voters cast ballots, a turnout rate of 51.48 percent.

“It seemed like a lot for a primary,” Kaminsky said.

High turnout was also the order of the day in Goshen. Out of 731 voters, 307 voted in the primary, or about 42 percent.

“That was higher than normal, I think, for a primary,” said Town Clerk Kristen Estelle.

Of these voters, 239 voted in the Democratic primary while 68 voted in the Republican primary and none voted in the Libertarian primary.

In Southampton, voters turned out with enthusiasm for the town’s Select Board special election and the state primary. There was a 46 percent overall voter turnout, but as of Friday, numbers were not available for how many were cast in each primary.

“I didn’t know what to expect because it was two elections together, but it was a very good turnout,” Southampton Town Clerk Janine Domina said. “It’s nice to see so many people come out and exercise their right to vote.”

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