Scores of Harvard students and thousands of Cantabrigians fulfilled their civic duty Tuesday by choosing candidates for the Cambridge City Council and the Cambridge School Committee.
Without the long-divisive wedge issue of rent control, citizens used their ballots to address concerns about preserving affordable housing, economic development, public safety and governmental efficiency.
Despite the wide range of issues, voter turnout was at its lowest level in more than a generation, as un-official counts suggest that just 48 percent of voters went to the polls Tuesday.
"This has been very disappointing," said Edward J. Samp, former Cambridge Election commissioner and an election judge at Peabody Elementary School. "I've been doing this for 35 years, and I've never known anything like this."
Harvard students once again had a poor showing at the polls. The unofficial voter turnout at precincts for first-years and river house residents was 81 out of 599 registered voters.
Eileen L. Schlab, an election official at Larsen Hall in the Graduate School of Design, blamed rainy weather and the abolition of rent control for the poor turnout. "There's a lack of interest, but rent control kept the numbers up all these years," Schlab said.
Along with the major issues, certain voters were looking for candidates who appealed to their particular interests.
Joseph C. Butscher, a cyclist who voted at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, said he supported Craig A. Kelley because Kelley proposed constructing bicycle lanes on major city streets.
"I'm tired of being cussed at and damn near run over on the street," Butscher said.
Helping to facilitate the election were dedicated bands of election judges, who gave up the day to help the voting process run smoothly.
Workers arrived at the polls at 6:30 a.m. and stayed until 9 p.m., locking up ballots and transporting them to the Longfellow School in East Cambridge where the Election Commission began counting them yesterday.
Josephine Dottin, a retired Cambridge resident who worked at the North Cambridge Senior Center, said she was a judge because "it's the one day a year I work."
Judges are paid between $85 and $120 for their efforts, and most workers are given free lunch and donuts, too.
"You only get paid a little bit. None of us could possibly be doing it for the money," said Paul F. Walker, a judge at the Peabody School.
Throughout the day, candidates and supporters were out in full force, campaigning at the legally required 150-foot distance from the polls.