Watching Turnout

Interesting fact: overall turnout numbers were almost exactly the same in the November 2006 statewide election (Deval Patrick) and the January 2010 special US Senate election (Scott Brown). In 2006, 2,243,835 people cast ballots in Massachusetts; in 2010, it was 2,249,026. Turnout percentage was lower, because far more people are registered to vote now, thanks in large part to the huge 2008 registration effort.

The same is true of Boston specifically: 157,120 people voted in Boston in the 2006 election; 153,827 voted in January 2010 -- although the voting rate dropped from 56% turnout to 42%.

However, while the overall numbers were nearly the same, there was considerable variance within that. Put simply, some of the whiter, more conservative areas of Boston voted in higher numbers in 2010 -- 15% higher in South Boston's Ward 6 -- while the more heavily minority areas voted in much lower numbers -- 20% lower in Ward 14, which includes Grove Hall and Franklin Field.

Through noon, the official Boston election department data has 58,388 people voting so far in the city, which is a little ahead of the 55,309 who had voted by that point in January.

And so far at least, the numbers look like a return to the 2006 Patrick breakdown, rather than a repeat of the 2010 Brown breakdown. South Boston has cast fewer votes than at this point in the January election, while ward 14 is 41% higher. Roxbury precincts are also up significantly so far.

It's still early, of course; perhaps those variations will wash out as the later votes come in -- for instance, perhaps Boston's minorities, who traditionally vote more after work than before, have simply voted in the morning this time, and the final result will be the same.

But if the breakdown is more like November '06 than January '10, that would presumably be good for Deval Patrick and other Democrats. Whether it will be good enough, I don't know.

As I get more info, I will try to make similar comparisons with other towns that varied from 11/06 to 1/10. That might -- or might not -- give us a peek into what might be happening today.


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