Turnout Key to Senate Victory in MA

by Dennis Pastore

Voters in Massachusetts can be cavalier in their voting behavior.  After all, in a state like Massachusetts your (Democratic) candidate can win without your vote.  They usually do, right?  Wrong.

Consider recent history.

Cities and towns that came out strongly for Barak Obama in 2008 gave Martha Coakley comparable levels of support in her race against Scott Brown in 2010.  The converse is also true.  Obama carried the state easily in 2008 with 62 percent of the vote; Coakley got 47 percent and lost the election to Brown, who polled 52 percent.

Did we miss a secret voter resettlement program carried out right under our noses?  A more plausible explanation is the 20 percentage point drop in voter turnout between 2008 (74 percent) and 2010 (54 percent).  More than 850,000 Massachusetts voters opted out in 2010 compared with 2008.  Just over 110,000 votes separated the two major candidates.

Turnout in pro-Coakley Berkshire County was off almost a third (down about 20,000).  The Democrat took eight of the state’s ten largest jurisdictions, where the average relative drop was even greater (Brown took Lowell and Quincy).  To add some perspective, the 110,000 votes separating Brown and Coakley amount to about one-half of the registered voters in Boston who did not vote in 2010.  That’s why Mayor Menino’s endorsement is crucial to Warren’s bid to defeat Brown.

Small wonder too that the Democratic Party is fighting hard to block implementation of recently enacted voter id laws – most notably in battleground states – that could discourage potential Obama supporters from showing up at the polls on November 6.

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About Dennis Pastore

Dennis Pastore serves with the Peace Corps in the Ban Khai district, Rayong province, of Thailand helping to teach English to elementary and middle school students at Wat Huanghin School. A former economist with the Economics and Statistics Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce, he has also taught history and German as a foreign language at high schools in Maryland and Massachusetts.
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