Early reports indicate Massachusetts voters are turning out in surprisingly large numbers for the special election pitting Republican Scott Brown against Democrat Martha Coakley.
In a state with a 3-to-1 Democratic advantage in voter registrations, strong voter turnout is usually a positive for the Democratic candidate.
Many pundits aren't sure that will prove to be the case this time around, however. They say long lines at the polling sites could indicate voters are turning out for Brown to protest the virtual one-party rule in Massachusetts, and President Barack Obama's healthcare reform effort.
State officials are projecting that anywhere from 1.6 million to 2.2 million Massachusetts voters will cast ballots. That would equate to between 40 percent and 55 percent of registered voters.
Among the growing indications that voter turnout is running strong:
- Officials in Barnstable, the home district of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, say they are expecting a 60 percent turnout.
- Boston-area TV station WBZ is reporting that election officials in the city are saying turnout is more than twice what it was for the primary elections.
- Delays and lines are being reported at polling places in many locations around the commonwealth. The light snow being experienced in many regions does not seem to be affecting the turnout, sources say.
- The MassLive.com Web site reports that turnout in the Springfield area has been higher than expected. Turnout is expected to reach 25 percent to 30 percent, compared with 9 percent in the primaries.
- In Easthampton, officials said the turnout had been "incredible," considering that special elections usually draw fewer voters to the polls.
Last-minute internal polling by both campaigns indicated the race was too close to call, according to McClatchy newspapers. Polling places will remain open until 8 p.m. Eastern time, and no exit poll results are expected to be released before the polls close.
The last year a Republican was elected to the Senate from Massachusetts was in 1972.
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