By Mac Cerullo
---- — Local and state officials are concerned about the turnout for tomorrow’s special election to fill former U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s vacant seat, saying absentee ballot requests are way down compared to the last special U.S. Senate election in 2010.
As of late last week the Newburyport city clerk’s office had received around 150 absentee ballot applications, which is about half of what they normally receive for this kind of election, the clerk’s office said.
That fact largely follows the statewide trends, where Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin said that only 49,748 absentee ballots have been requested compared to the 63,610 requested one week before the 2010 election.
“With many people focused on the Bruins playing in the Stanley Cup Final, the Bulger trial and the end of the school year, the special election has a lot of competition for attention,” Galvin said.
The special election will be held tomorrow from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and will see veteran U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Malden, face off against former U.S. Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez, R-Cohasset. Richard Heos of Woburn will also be on the ballot representing the Twelve Visions Party. The Senate seat opened up when Kerry resigned to become U.S. secretary of state.
Despite the high profile of the Senate position, this year’s special election has not garnered the same level of attention as the special election for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in 2010, possibly due to the differences in today’s political climate compared to the circumstances of the time.
Notably, the 2010 race was boosted by the ongoing discussions surrounding President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform, and the race gained national attention as Republican challenger Scott Brown pulled even in the polls with Democratic state Attorney General Martha Coakley and raised the possibility that his election could mean the health care law’s defeat.
By contrast, this year’s election has been overshadowed from the start by major local news stories, particularly the Boston Marathon bombings, which took place only a week before the primary elections were held in April.
Although the general trends point to a low turnout, other local election officials have said their absentee ballot requests have been similar to years past. The Amesbury city clerk’s office has reportedly received about 100 requests, which assistant clerk Sharon Dunning said was actually more than usual for a U.S. Senate race, despite Amesbury’s 11,000-plus registered voters.
Similarly, the Salisbury town clerk’s office has received around 90 requests, and West Newbury has received roughly 60. Both offices said those figures were about what they were expecting.
Regardless of the overall absentee ballot trickle, election officials are hoping for a sprint to the finish and are encouraging residents to turn out and vote. The deadline to request absentee ballots is today at noon, and Galvin said voters can apply in person at their local election office and cast their ballot in one visit.
Voters who are unsure of where they should vote can also look up their polling location at WhereDoIVoteMA.com.