Local Turnout Creeps Upward

But expectations of higher voter turnout fail to materialize on Election Day

Those expecting Cambridge voter turnout to smash previous records were disappointed to see only moderate gains.

According to Teresa Neighbor, the executive director of the Cambridge Election Commission, unofficial results—not including some provisional and overseas ballots—indicate that 41,712 Cambridge voters cast ballots in the 2004 general election, or nearly 88 percent of active voters. In 2000, 40,317 Cambridge voters cast ballots for an 83 percent rate.

That figure was 85 percent in 1996, 84 percent in 1992 and 86 percent in 1988.

While voter turnout rates increased by four or five percent in Cambridge, this upswing was not as dramatic as the 18 point rise in New Hampshire voter turnout rate reported by the Salem Observer. New Hampshire and several other swing states reported record turnouts due to strong voter registration efforts.

Neighbor said polling locations increased their staffing levels 15 percent over the last presidential election in anticipation of turnout rates as high as 90 percent.

The tallying of Cambridge votes, which are processed by optical scanning machines, went smoothly at Cambridge Senior Center, according to Neighbor.

“I was home by midnight,” Neighbor said. Meanwhile, some supervisors of polling locations across the country didn’t even close the booths until Wednesday morning.

Sabino Piemonte of the Boston Election Department said that the unofficial active voter turnout rate was 68 percent in Boston.

According to the November 2 voter check-in records, 525 Harvard affiliates who registered in Massachusetts from a dorm or House address cast votes in Tuesday’s election. The same records indicate 363 active voters registered to Houses and dorms did not cast votes this election, though this includes some recent Harvard graduates.

Ward 7, Precinct 3—which includes all freshman dorms and Adams House as well as Cambridge residents—had an active voter turnout rate of 85 percent. Ward 4, Precinct 3 and Ward 8, Precinct 3—encompassing the River Houses except Adams—had a combined rate of 79 percent. Ward 8, District 1, covering the Quad Houses, had 88 percent.

The Cambridge Election Commission considers any recently registered voter or student who lived on campus within the past calendar year to be an active voter. While active voters can just show up to the polls, inactive voters must bring proof of address and sign an oath swearing that they have lived in Massachusetts in the past six months.

Neighbor said that it was likely that in 2006 the state would certify an electronic voting system for the visually impaired, but that does not mean that all Massachusetts voters will use them in the next election.