The Democratic and Republican Primary elections are this Tuesday. The day after Labor Day weekend is not the optimal time to hold an election but it must be held early in the month to meet the time requirements needed to print absentee ballots for the general election. Many states hold their primaries in the spring, but the state legislature has been averse to making such a change.
I cast my ballot two weeks ago thanks to our universal vote by mail system. That’s an outgrowth of the pandemic that’s been made permanent and I like it. The Secretary of State’s office has a page called Track My Ballot which allows you check on the status of your ballot. When I checked on my ballot, the site says it’s been “accepted” which means “submitted to be counted.” I believe mailed in ballots are treated like absentee ballots in that they are placed in the ballot box that corresponds with the ward and precinct where you would vote if doing it in person. On Election Day, all of these early ballots are counted along with those cast that day.
As someone who has run for office myself and has worked on many other campaigns, I’m fascinated by the tactical implications of these early voting options, especially as the number of people who use them increase. Previously, candidates doing mailings or electronic or print advertisements would schedule those as close to the election as possible on the theory that the more recently a voter sees a promotional piece, the more likely the voter will remember it when casting a ballot. But now, people are casting ballots three weeks or more before Election Day. I’ve received more than a dozen campaign flyers by mail since I cast my vote. And late-breaking events have less impact since many have already voted. For example, in the Attorney General’s race, Quentin Palfrey, one of the three Democratic candidates, announced on Tuesday that he was dropping out and endorsing Andrea Campbell. Not only will Palfrey’s name still appear on the ballot, but many people have already voted for him. (Although not too many, I suppose, otherwise he wouldn’t be dropping out).
Also on Tuesday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its decision in Lyons v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, a case in which the Massachusetts Republican Party challenged the recently enacted vote by mail law. Back on July 11, 2022, the SJC upheld the law the same day it heard the challenge but deferred its written decision until Tuesday. The SJC held that the state legislature has broad power to enhance voting opportunities which is exactly what it did by this VOTES Act. The SJC also held that the Republican complaints about the Act were meritless.
Had I not already voted by mail, I would be casting my ballot in a new polling location this year. Last week, I received a postcard from the Secretary of State’s office informing me that my polling place is now the Bailey School on Campbell Drive. That’s a change because for several decades my ward and precinct, 8-3, has voted at the Daley School on Fleming Street (which is just around the corner from the Bailey). That got me thinking about all the places where I have voted.
The first year I would have been eligible to vote was 1977. I was at Providence College then but my dad was also on the ballot running for reelection to the city council so I assume I would have come home to cast that ballot although I don’t recall it one way or the other. The first ballot I clearly remember casting was on November 4, 1980, in that year’s presidential election. I was in the Army then but was in Lowell on leave for two weeks as I transited from training at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, to my new duty station in West Germany. I cast that ballot at St. Margaret’s School on Pine Street. (I voted for Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter but that’s a story for another day).
When I got out of the Army in 1984, I came back to Ward 8, Precinct 3, which is believe still voted at St. Margaret’s but the school hall was not handicap accessible so the polling place soon changed to the Pine Street Fire Station. It stayed there for a few elections until switching to the Daley School where it has been ever since, up until this year.
Speaking of this year, here’s the lineup of candidates for the various offices that are on the ballot:
Third Congressional District: Democratic incumbent Lori Trahan is unopposed in her primary and Republican challenger Dean Tran is unopposed in his. They’ll face each other in November.
Governor: There are two names on the ballot in the Democratic primary, Maura Healey and Sonia Chang-Diaz, however, Chang-Diaz dropped out of the race in the spring so while her name will be on the ballot, Healey is the overwhelming favorite. On the Republican side, Geoff Diehl and Chris Doughty face off for the opportunity to face Healey in November.
Lieutenant Governor: There are three candidates in the Democratic Primary: Kimberley Driscoll of Salem; Tami Gouveia of Acton; and Eric Lesser of Longmeadow. On the Republican side, Leah Allen of Danvers faces Kate Campanale of Spencer.
Attorney General: There are three candidate names on the ballot on the Democratic side: Andrea Campbell of Boston; Shannon Liss-Riordan of Brookline; and Quenton Palfrey of Weston, but as noted about, Palfrey “dropped out” last week and endorsed Campbell. On the Republican side, James McMahon of Bourne is unopposed.
Secretary of the Commonwealth: On the Democratic side, incumbent William Galvin of Boston faces Tanisha Sullivan, also of Boston. On the Republican side, Rayla Cambell of Whitman is unopposed.
Treasurer: Democratic incumbent Deborah Goldberg of Brookline is unopposed in the primary and in the general election.
Auditor: There are two candidates on the Democratic ballot: Christopher Dempsey of Brookline and Diana DiZoglio of Methuen (incumbent Suzanne Bump did not run for reelection). For the Republicans, Anthony Amore of Winchester is unopposed.
Governors Councillor: Incumbent Eileen Duff of Gloucester is unopposed in the Democratic primary as is Michael Walsh of Lynnfield in the Republican primary. Duff and Walsh will face off in November.
District Attorney: Democratic incumbent Marian Ryan of Belmont is unopposed in the primary and in the general election.
Sheriff: Democratic incumbent Peter Koutoujian of Waltham is unopposed in the primary and in the general election.
First Middlesex State Senate District: Democratic incumbent Ed Kennedy is unopposed in the primary and in the general election.
16th Middlesex Representative District: There are two candidates in the Democratic primary: Zoe Dzineku and Rodney Elliott. In the Republic primary, Karla Miller is unopposed. (Incumbent Tom Golden resigned earlier this year when he was elected Lowell City Manager).
17th Middlesex Representative District: Democratic incumbent Vanna Howard is unopposed in the primary and in the general election.
18th Middlesex Representative District: Democratic incumbent Rady Mom faces two challengers in the primary: Tara Hong and Dominik Lay. There is no Republican candidate so whoever wins the Democratic primary will be unopposed in the general election.
One last note about the gubernatorial race, if Maura Healey is elected governor it will be historic in several respects. She will be the first woman elected to that office in the Commonwealth and the first lesbian. She also will break a long string of losses by incumbent attorneys general who ran for governor.
In 1974, incumbent Attorney General Robert H. Quinn lost to Michael Dukakis in the Democratic Primary. Dukakis then defeated Frank Sargent in the general election.
In 1990, incumbent Attorney General Frank Bellotti lost to John Silber in the Democratic Primary. Silber lost to William Weld in the general election.
In 1998, incumbent Attorney General Scott Harshbarger defeated Pat McGovern and Brian Donnelly in the Democratic Primary, but lost to Paul Cellucci in the general election.
In 2006, incumbent Attorney General Tom Reilly lost to Deval Patrick in the Democratic Primary. Patrick defeated Kerry Healey in the general election.
In 2014, incumbent Attorney General Martha Coakley defeated Steve Grossman and Donald Berwick in the Democratic Primary, but lost to Charlie Baker in the general election.