Ballot Question 9--the controversial proposal to abolish rent control in Massachusetts--drew an estimated 70 percent of Cantabrigians to the polls yesterday, according to officials of the city's Election Commission.
"It was a lot heavier than what I thought [it would be," said election commissioner Artis B. Spears last night "Question 9--that's what brought them out."
Although many officials had expected a strong opposition to rent control among residents of Cambridge--which has much tenanted property--the 'no's to Question Nine were shockingly low, according to results at 1 a.m.
With 29 of Cambridge's 42 precincts counted, only 57 percent of voters opposed Question Nine.
"I'm surprised," former Cambridge mayor Alice Wolf said last night. "'No' on the [Question Nine] vote is not as high as I expected."
There were few other surprises in the way Cambridge residents voted yesterday. By 1 a.m., incumbent U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy '54-'56 was beating challenger W. Mitt Romney in Cambridge results with 79 to 20 percent of the vote.
Governor William F. Weld '66--who won more than two-thirds of the state's overall vote--lagged behind Mark Roosevelt '78 by two percentage points in Cambridge's polls at 1 a.m.
"I expected Kennedy to cream Romney, and that's what happened," Deputy City Manager Richard C. Rossi said.
Officials said they thought the good weather helped, but that ballot questions were the main reason so many voters turned out this year.
"We had thousands of brand new voters," said Thomas C. Cangiamila, an office assistant at the Election Commission. "People who never voted before were coming out of the wood-work."
But as usual, student voters came out in paltry numbers.
"The turnout seemed to be lightest in student areas," said election commissioner Thomas J. Hartnett. "I would have thought that with the U.S. senatorship at stake, they would have come out in huge numbers."
At the Quincy House polling site, for example, nly 252 voters showed up.
Election officials said that for the most part the elections went "very smoothly."
"It was better than the primary, which was chaos," Cangiamila said. "I expected it to be a lot worse."