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City Elections Held

Turnout Low; Early Results in by Tonight

By C.r. Mcfadden

A low voter turnout, particularly in areas with many formerly rent-controlled apartment units, suggests that the conservative Alliance for Change may have fared well in yesterday's Cambridge city elections.

Vote totals dropped 20 percent in the Agassiz, Mid-Cambridge, Cambridgeport and West Cambridge neighborhoods, which have a large number of apartments and are traditional strongholds of the progressive Cambridge Civic Association.

Turnout in more conservative North and East Cambridge was lower than in 1993, but reflected a drop in overall turnout across the city.

"All the areas that are down are areas which had a high number of formerly rent-controlled units," said John R. Pitkin, president of the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association.

Priscilla J. McMillan, vice-president of the CCA, said she was "concerned" about the fate of progressive candidates.

"[Those areas] are our base," she said. "It means that tenants' union voters have left or haven't gotten out the vote."

Unofficial counts suggest that about 19,307 people went to the polls in Cambridge yesterday, although some ballots may be ruled invalid. In the last city election two years ago, 22,140 votes were cast.

Turnout by Harvard students was "a record low," with only some 81 of 599 river house and first-year voters casting ballots at two precincts on campus, according to Election Commissioner Wayne A. "Rusty" Drugan Jr.

Councillor Kathleen L. Born's seat on the council may be in jeopardy, as turnout in two West Cambridge precincts near Born's are down some 19 percent. Huge support in these areas helped Born capture the ninth seat on the council two years ago, and observers say the lower turnout means she is now vulnerable to defeat at the hands of conservative James J. McSweeney Jr.

"It depends on whether [Born] was able to reach out to other neighborhoods to get voters," said Councillor Katherine Triantafillou.

Born, however, said she was not worried about the early voting figures. "It's too early to tell," she said.

Early voting patterns can often be misleading in Cambridge because of the city's unique proportional voting system.

Proportional representation allows citizens to rank their choice of candidates, and then redistributes votes when candidates reach a quota of approximately 10 percent of the votes cast. Votes are then transferred to the next preferred candidate on the ballot.

"You never know, even after you see what all the number one votes are, who the winner is," Pitkin said.

Ballots were delivered to the Longfellow School in Mid-Cambridge last night, where they will be watched overnight by uniformed Cambridge police officers, according to Election Commissioner Darleen G. Bonislawski.

Election workers will begin tallying votes today, Bonislawski said. Preliminary results will be available tonight, but final results will not be available until Saturday evening, she said

Councillor Kathleen L. Born's seat on the council may be in jeopardy, as turnout in two West Cambridge precincts near Born's are down some 19 percent. Huge support in these areas helped Born capture the ninth seat on the council two years ago, and observers say the lower turnout means she is now vulnerable to defeat at the hands of conservative James J. McSweeney Jr.

"It depends on whether [Born] was able to reach out to other neighborhoods to get voters," said Councillor Katherine Triantafillou.

Born, however, said she was not worried about the early voting figures. "It's too early to tell," she said.

Early voting patterns can often be misleading in Cambridge because of the city's unique proportional voting system.

Proportional representation allows citizens to rank their choice of candidates, and then redistributes votes when candidates reach a quota of approximately 10 percent of the votes cast. Votes are then transferred to the next preferred candidate on the ballot.

"You never know, even after you see what all the number one votes are, who the winner is," Pitkin said.

Ballots were delivered to the Longfellow School in Mid-Cambridge last night, where they will be watched overnight by uniformed Cambridge police officers, according to Election Commissioner Darleen G. Bonislawski.

Election workers will begin tallying votes today, Bonislawski said. Preliminary results will be available tonight, but final results will not be available until Saturday evening, she said

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