Brockton Voters Set New Low Record at Preliminary Election
September 22, 2011by Erik Potter and Jessica Branco
Henrietta Williams was watching TV. Ali Mien would not have been watching TV if he had known an election was going on. And Brad Pickett knew there was an election, but doesn't believe in voting.
Only 4.7 percent of registered Brockton voters cast ballots in Tuesday's preliminary election for mayor and School Committee. Experts pinned the poor showing mostly on voter apathy and a lack of credible races.
Whatever the reason, Brockton voters stayed home in droves.
Elections Commissioner John McGarry calculated the voter turnout rates going back to 1989 and found Tuesday ranked dead last.
Massasoit Community College professor Roger Shea, chairman of the history and government department, pointed to several reasons why voters chose to sit this race out.
"(It's) demographics, voter apathy, but probably the major reason was the lack of competition," Shea said.
Preliminary races elsewhere in the region also had low voter turnout, but nowhere near Brockton's level.
Quincy attracted 14.4 percent of voters on Tuesday for its two ward city council races. Fall River, with a crowded field of city council and mayoral candidates, had a 21 percent turnout in its preliminary race last week.
Peter Ubertaccio, director of the Martin Institute for Law and Society at Stonehill College, said turnout is always low for local and primary elections. Beyond that, however, he said it's difficult to say why people choose not to vote.
"It could be general satisfaction (with the status quo), apathy, or not a compelling reason to vote for one of the candidates," he said.
Non-voters interviewed by The Enterprise on Wednesday bore that out.
"I didn't even know anything was going on last night," Robert Sundstrom, 41, said.
"No, I didn't vote. I'm sorry I didn't, but I didn't even know it was going on, " Joyce Lucier, 68, said. "... I would've gone if I knew."
"I had no idea there was an election going on. What was it for?" asked Ghulam Malik, 35. "Oh man, my old teachers would kill me if they knew this."
McGarry, the elections commissioner, on Tuesday night criticized the mayoral campaigns of the two challengers after the election results were posted.
The city spent $120,000 to hold a city-wide preliminary election, only to have 342 people and 195 people vote for the second- and third-place finishers.
With 2,200 voters turning out, the city spent nearly $55 for every ballot cast.
"They neither raised nor spent enough to get their message out to the entire city," McGarry said of the challengers.
State finance reports backed McGarry up. Newly amended returns from third-place finisher found that Gwendolyn G. Garvin raised $1,200 for her campaign and spent less than $100 of it, all but 25 cents of which was on food.
Ronald P. Matta, who will face Mayor Linda M. Balzotti in the general election on Nov. 8, raised $1,260 and spent $870 of it on signs, mailings and a campaign fundraiser.
Matta said Tuesday he would step up his outreach efforts for the general election.
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