Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Who Votes in MA-05 Primaries?

Yesterday, I looked at the open seat Congressional elections in 1998 and 2001. I made the comment that, if the vote split in Lowell, any candidate who won big in Lawrence, the next largest community, would probably win the election. I'm no longer sure that's the case. While Lawrence is the second biggest city in the Fifth district by population, it does not seem to be the second largest source of Democratic primary votes in the district. To measure this, I took the combined primary vote in the 2006 gubernatorial election for every town in the Congressional district. Since Congressman Marty Meehan has not had a contested primary, this would have to be a good enough approximation. As it turns out, last year Lawrence did not have the second largest turnout in the district -- it was fourth. More Democrats turned out in both Haverhill and Methuen than in Lawrence. Here are the results from the entire district:

Town 2006 Primary VotesPercent
Lowell 9,392 11.74%
Haverhill 6,403 8.00%
Methuen 6,201 7.75%
Lawrence 5,525 6.90%
Chelmsford 5,030 6.29%
Billerica 4,743 5.93%
Andover 4,528 5.66%
Tewksbury 4,174 5.22%
Concord 3,828 4.78%
Dracut 3,612 4.51%
Acton 3,569 4.46%
Sudbury 2,819 3.52%
Westford 2,655 3.32%
Hudson 2,205 2.76%
Wayland 1,971* 2.46%
Maynard 1,814 2.27%
Groton 1,331 1.66%
Tyngsborough 1,326 1.66%
Littleton 1,245 1.56%
Stow 1,068 1.33%
Harvard 1,019 1.27%
Carlisle 929 1.16%
Shirley 847 1.06%
Lancaster 806 1.01%
Boxborough 794 0.99%
Ayer 760 0.95%
Bolton 657 0.82%
Berlin 413 0.52%
Dunstable 354 0.44%
The Wayland votes are an approximation, since the fifth district includes only three of the four precincts in Wayland, but other than that the numbers are straight from the gubernatorial primary results.

Now of course, the turnout is not going to be as high in a special election than in a hotly contested gubernatorial race. Still, the percentages of the district vote are instructive. I did the same analysis for the 2002 gubernatorial primary and the results were very similar. Again, it was Haverhill, not Lawrence that had the second highest turnout. The only thing that I can think of that would significantly change these percentages would be if the special election occurred on the same day as the fall elections in the four cities -- Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill and Methuen. That would dampen the impact of the larger towns like Andover, Chelmsford and Billerica since they would not have local elections going on at the same time.