BOSTON – More than 1 million people cast their ballots during Massachusetts' first early voting period, according to Secretary of State William Galvin, who predicted that over 3 million people will vote in this year's presidential and state election.
Speaking to reporters at the State House before Election Day, Galvin said he expects a "very high turnout," citing a "high level of interest" in the presidential contest between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton as well as a focus by voters on four statewide ballot questions.
Galvin said the 10-day early voting period that ended on Friday was more successful than officials had anticipated and that many early voters "expressed relief that they didn't have to make any more decisions" regarding a contentious election.
"It's been an unusual campaign," Galvin said. "If you wanted to contrast it even with 2012, the tone is certainly far more negative than in 2012. It's certainly more negative than 2008 when there was a sense of optimism in the country. Even the supporters of Senator McCain in 2008, I think, had an optimistic view. That's not been the case."
Galvin said it was "encouraging" that voters have "overcome the difficulties of this campaign to participate."
Many communities had more than 30 percent turnout during the 10-day early voting period, Galvin said, with some approaching 40 percent. He pointed to Cape Cod and particularly Barnstable, where state Senate and House seats are up for grabs this year, as one area with "a lot of" early voting.
In Boston, officials reported Monday that 47,909 people voted early, representing 11.5 percent of the city's registered voters.
Though the numbers varied by community with suburbs generally higher than cities, Galvin said the statewide early vote turnout exceeded 22 percent, higher than the 15 percent that "most people speculated" beforehand based on experiences in other states.
No statewide offices are on this year's ballot, which features few contested legislative races -- 58 out of 200 House and Senate seats. Ballot questions would allow a second slots parlor, raise the cap on charter schools, restrict farm animal confinement and legalize the adult use of marijuana.
Galvin said he expects the ballot questions to "reinforce" the turnout.
He said the makeup of this year's ballot creates a challenge in predicting turnout, as the last presidential race in 2012 -- during which 3,184,196 people voted, giving the state its highest-ever turnout -- also featured a "very intense" Senate race between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren and other down-ballot contests. In 2004, he said, the turnout was "only slightly less" than 3 million, with no ballot questions or statewide races.
There are 4,534,974 people registered voters in Massachusetts, a total that includes inactive voters and which Galvin said reflects "very healthy" registration in September and October.
There are 192,133 new registered voters in Massachusetts since the last presidential election, with three of the state's 14 counties responsible for more than half of the increase. Total enrollment represents an increase of 4.42 percent since October 2012, when more than 4.3 million voters were registered.
Statewide, around 54 percent of voters are registered as unenrolled, with 34.18 percent registered as Democrats and 10.68 percent as Republicans. Barnstable County has the highest proportion of Republicans, at 15.1 percent, followed by Nantucket (13.79 percent) and Plymouth (13.33 percent) counties.
Polls will be open across the state from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.