BOSTON — Thursday, not Tuesday, is the message being driven home by Massachusetts politicians who will go head-to-head with members of their own party in the state’s primary election on Sept. 6.
Across the state candidates are reminding voters, who are accustomed to heading to the polls on a Tuesday, that this year’s primary election will be held later in the week.
In 1st Congressional District campaign ads, longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Richard Neal underscores the Thursday primary to western Massachusetts voters. He is running against two other Democrats to win the party nod and run unopposed in November.
In seven different ads released over the past two months, the incumbent reminds voters to show up at the polls on Thursday, referencing the change in both his speech and in text, including a 12-second ad dedicated to reminding voters about the changes to the primary.
In the eastern part of the state, incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Keating and Joseph Kennedy III, both Democrats, have also been pushing the Thursday primary.
On his campaign website, Keating urges supporters to join his “Get Out the Vote” efforts on primary day, which includes calling voters through phone banks and holding up signs. He is seeking to keep his seat in the newly reshaped 9th Congressional District, which is comprised primarily of Cape Cod and the islands.
Meanwhile, Kennedy, the grandson of the late Robert F. Kennedy who is seeking to represent the state’s new 4th Congressional District, has turned to social media to remind voters about the Thursday primary. His campaign’s Facebook page features a banner urging residents to “Vote Thursday September 6th.”
Originally scheduled for Tuesday Sept. 18, the primary was moved because of a conflict with the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah. Secretary of State William Galvin said the new date would allow more time for any potential recounts from the primary election and more time to prepare ballots for the November election.
But, the secretary said the absence of contested statewide races would likely be the largest factor in what is expected to be a light voter turnout.
“The idea that Tuesday is the only day that people in Massachusetts vote is simply a myth,” he said, adding that local elections take place in some cities and towns on Mondays and Saturdays.
Galvin said he expects to see voter turnout reach around 15 percent – with the higher turnout seen in western Massachusetts where there are more contested and interesting races that will draw voters to the polls.
Pittsfield City Clerk Linda Tyer said she is also expecting to see a voter turnout in the 15 percent range, because of the number of local races. She said voter turnout in the 2008 primary reached just over 9 percent in the western Massachusetts city.
“I think voter turnout is affected by a number of things,” she said. “It could be lowered because of the Thursday date or it could be counteracted by local competitive races.”
Although unusual, the idea of a Thursday primary in Massachusetts is not unprecedented. The state held the contests on Thursdays in both 1964 and 1988. These elections garnered around 33 and 15 percent voter turnout respectively, said Brian McNiff, a spokesman for Galvin’s office.