Low voter turnout expected across Pioneer Valley in municipal election year

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CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Municipal elections matter the most to voters because they impact their daily lives, but historically, voter turnout in those years is low. Expectations were low at the polls in Chicopee Tuesday morning. Just a few voters casting their ballots at the same time was enough to impress poll workers, and voters, at Bellamy Middle School.

“I’m surprised at the number of people who are, who have come through,” said Ernest Rocheleau. He said he will vote no matter what, “Because it’s my civic duty. That’s simple, clear.”

Chicopee City Clerk Keith Rattell told 22News he saw only a 3-6 percent turnout in the morning and expected only about 15 percent for the day.

It was a unique year for the city of Chicopee because only one seat was a citywide contest and that was the school committee at-large where people had to choose from two candidates down to one. Other than that, the race for Mayor, assessor, collector, treasurer, and councilor at large all ran unopposed. Voters also went to the polls to vote for precinct-specific races, like city councilor and school committee seats.

Competition is a healthy part of our democracy, but Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos said, while unopposed, he still gets the message from residents on how he can improve. He told 22News, “Going out to events most nights and throughout the day and weekends, in my case, it seems you’re really campaigning constantly, so you do get a pulse.”

Next door in Holyoke, Mayor Alex Morse did have a challenger, former city councilor Jay Ferreira. But, Holyoke City Clerk Brenna Murphy-McGee was only expecting about a 30 percent turnout, which was much lower than the 60 percent in a presidential election year.

“Unfortunately we just don’t see those kind of numbers from municipal elections so it’s really hard to pinpoint what exactly it is that makes voter turnout lower versus higher,” said Murphy-McGee. She, too, was running unopposed.

There was much at stake in Holyoke. For the first time, the winner of the race for mayor would enter a four year term, instead of a two year term. City council at-large was cut to six seats instead of eight seats, due to a charter change that was voted in two years ago. Ten people, including all eight incumbents and two new candidates, were running for those six seats.

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