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Massachusetts election: Brown, Coakley try to get out the vote

Martha Coakley arguably has a more extensive get-out-the-vote-operation than Scott Brown does. But in recent surveys of the Massachusetts election, Coakley is trailing Brown.

By Tracey D. SamuelsonCorrespondent / January 19, 2010

Democratic Senate candidate Martha Coakley greets supporters Tuesday outside the polling station in Medford, Mass. where she cast her ballot in the special election to fill the Senate seat of the late Edward Kennedy.

Brian Snyder/REUTERS

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Boston

After over four months of campaigning, the Senate candidates in the Massachusetts election now await the outcome of the vote Tuesday.

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The only thing left for them to do: get voters to the polls.

Special elections typically have low voter turnout, but this time, polling places are likely to be busier because of all the national attention and the closeness of the race. Anywhere from 1.6 million to 2.2 million of the state’s 4.1 million registered voters are expected to cast ballots, according to estimates released by William Galvin, Massachusetts’ Secretary of State.

Turnout of the state’s 2.4 million independent voters is expected to be crucial to the race’s outcome. While Democrats outnumber Republicans 3 to 1 in the Bay State, independents are the majority – 51 percent – of voters. Polling suggests that independents favor Scott Brown, the Republican candidate, but they are historically less likely to vote than those affiliated with a political party.

Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate, arguably has a more extensive get-out-the-vote-operation than Mr. Brown does. For Tuesday, she has some 50 phone banks scheduled, in which people call voters and urge them to get to the polls. And she has more than 6,000 volunteers working on her campaign, The New York Times reports.

Coakley also has unions, including the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), mobilizing volunteers on her behalf. According to an AFL-CIO blog, this past weekend “thousands of union members [were] working at phone banks in local union halls, knocking on doors of other union members and talking with their co-workers at jobs sites across the Bay State.”

SEIU put 300 volunteers into the field and spent $685,000 on a TV ad attacking Brown, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Brown, meanwhile, is focusing on grass-roots efforts. His campaign puts the number of volunteers in the hundreds, with people out knocking on doors or making calls from one of the campaign's 10 regional offices.

In addition, Brown has launched a “voter bomb,” where supporters can pledge to call up to 20 of their friends and rally them to vote for Brown. More than 31,000 phone-call commitments were made as of Tuesday morning, the campaign reports.

Brown has also sent e-mails to supporters offering rides to their polling stations. And 600 volunteers are using technology that allows them to download addresses and contact information to their smart phones for canvassing efforts, reports The Boston Globe.

In the final days of the race, the Globe also says, Brown augmented his network by hiring a company to provide up to 70 workers per day to knock on doors.

Moreover, Brown’s campaign has created a hot line for voters to report any irregularities at the polls – “including voter intimidation, errors and fraud,” according to a campaign press release. On her campaign website, Coakley asks supporters to e-mail her if they “experience aggressive or bullying tactics by Scott Brown's campaign” – perhaps an indication of the combative tone the race has taken at it nears the finish line.

Each candidate has already voted in his or her hometown and plans to spend the rest of Tuesday crisscrossing the state to ensure their supporters head to the polls as well.

In recent surveys, Coakley is trailing Brown. Over the weekend, Suffolk University conducted polls in three communities that had returned results nearly identical to the final state’s final tallies in the 2006 Senate race. This time, the polling revealed a strong voter preference for Brown.

At stake in Tuesday’s election is Democrats’ supermajority in the Senate. If Coakley is elected, Democrats would have 60 votes to pass bills without any support from Republicans. If Brown wins on Tuesday, Republicans would have 41 votes, meaning they could sustain filibusters on proposed legislation.

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