Joel Mowbray: The turnout in Massachusetts

Occasional contributor Joel Mowbray ([email protected]) writes to comment on the Massachusetts election:

Turns out that the “special election” was special in one more way. Yesterday’s voting tally shattered all turnout predictions, not just because the race was considered a fait accompli a mere month ago, but for the simple fact that elections for one office rarely generate strong turnout.
To give some perspective on just how motivated Massachusetts voters were, consider that turnout was higher than in 2006, when Sen. Ted Kennedy last won re-election. In that contest, 2.16 million people voted, versus yesterday’s still-unofficial figure of 2.25 million.
Despite the fact that there were elections at all levels in 2006 — from governor to Congress to local races — critics would be correct in noting that there was no battle royale to excite voters.
For a better comparison to a non-presidential year — when turnout everywhere is always significantly higher — 2002 had a red-hot gubernatorial contest, ultimately won by Mitt Romney. Just under 2.2 million people voted. (The 2008 election had a turnout of 3.05 million.)
Making this even more incredible is that only one candidate had all the trappings of a fancy get-out-the-vote effort with the luxury of focusing on “reliable” supporters. That, of course, would be the loser, Martha Coakley. Considering that her poll numbers were cratering on the eve of the election, though, her 47% showing amidst such heavy turnout actually proves that she
built a very solid get-out-the-vote effort.
Registered Republicans number a scant 12% in Massachusetts, meaning that Brown couldn’t simply target those most likely to support him. He needed independents and registered Democrats to have a burning desire to go to the polls and vote Brown.
Thanks to the Democrats’ unwillingness to slow down in the face of public opposition, Brown got what he needed to become Senate Republican number 41.

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