Polls close, counting begins in Mass. primary election; low turnout projected
The polls have closed in the state primary elections and the voters have had their say. Now the crucial count has begun in a variety of races, including one congressional primary featuring a scion of the Kennedy family and another featuring a district attorney jousting with a former district attorney who stepped up to serve in Washington but was thrown a curve ball by redistricting.
In the 4th Congressional District, Joseph P. Kennedy III of Brookline, the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy and son of former Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II, is running against Herb Robinson of Newton for the Democratic nomiantion
The Republican candidates facing off against each other are Sean Bielat of Norfolk, who challenged Barney Frank in the district in 2010; Elizabeth Childs of Brookline; and David L. Steinhoff of Fall River.
In the 9th Congressional District, which includes Cape Cod, William R. Keating, the former Norfolk County district attorney, is running against C. Samuel Sutter, the current district attorney for Bristol County. Because of redistricting, Keating, currently the freshman congressman for the 10th district, found himelf faced with the choice of running against popular Boston congressman Steven Lynch or moving to the Cape and running in the redrawn 9th District, which included parts of his old district.
Secretary of State William F. Galvin has projected that voter turnout statewide will probably be in the “low teens,” said Galvin spokesman Brian McNiff. In Boston, only 8.29 percent of voters had cast ballots by 6 p.m.
The election also includes races for the Democratic nomination for a congressional seat in Western Massachusetts, for legislative seats, Governor’s Council, county clerks of courts, registers of deeds, and various other county offices.
Fifty-two percent of the state’s 4.1 million voters are unenrolled. Registered Democrats account for 35.56 percent of the voters, followed by Republicans with 11.29 percent.
In Boston this morning, at the Boys & Girls Club at 15 Talbot Ave. in Dorchester, voting was sparse, with only 19 people casting ballots 3½ hours after the Ward 14 precinct opened.
“A great number of people just don’t realize the importance of it,” said Patricia Courtney, the warden of the precinct. “And they need to remember their ninth-grade civics class.”
Courtney said that with such a low projected turnout, name recognition is everything.
Several people who did show up said they were drawn by a specific candidate or out of civic duty.
“Elizabeth Warren, that’s why I’m here,” said Ann Henderson, 81. “I think she is very down-to-earth, let’s put it that way.”
Henderson said she had cast ballots in every general election in the past 50 years, but that her voting in primaries has been spotty at best.
“Usually, I don’t,” she said. “I’m interested in her, and that’s what brought me out.”
“It’s my right to vote because we need a better government,” said Cheryl Lilley. “A women’s right to vote, the 19th Amendment.”
Some people said they were reminded of Thursday’s primary by the recent political conventions. The Democratic convention is concluding tonight, with a much-watched address by President Obama.
Geneva Harris, 85, said she’s looking for honesty, “instead of squeezing the last penny out of an old fool like me and then squishing me like a cockroach, excuse my language.”
She added that voting is society’s most important tool for change.
“I just hope people realize just how much it means to vote, but I haven’t seen too many people here.”
Galvin, the secretary of state, said this afternoon that he does not expect a large response from unenrolled voters, who could cast either a Democratic or Republican ballot in today’s elections. He said there was no statewide primary race today, and that most of the contests are isolated regionally (congressional races) or involve lower-interest county offices.
“I don’t think this is a big day for independents coming out to vote, to be honest,’’ Galvin said. “Turnout is driven by where there are contests. There are many places where there aren't very many contests.’’
Galvin said his office’s job will be to certify the outcome of the limited contests today, and to then get the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election ready in time to meet federal guidelines. He will also be trying to increase voter enrollment, which ends Oct. 17 and boost participation of already registered voters.
“The main event is exactly two months from today,’’ Galvin said.Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report.