If City Clerk Tim Spanos' prediction holds true, the turnout will be light March 5 for the primary in a special election for Peabody's next state representative and successor to the late Joyce Spiliotis.
Spanos said it's still difficult to forecast with great certainty at this point, but he doesn't anticipate anymore activity at the polls than in September's state primary -- that was 15 percent and Spanos is rarely wrong.
By the numbers, that's about 5,380 voters of the 35,855 registered in Peabody as of last November's election.
Historically, turnout for state primaries is often low and local election officials said at the time both the earlier date and the fact that Sept. 6 was a Thursday likely threw some regular voters off schedule. That was despite a hotly contested four-way race for the Democratic nomination to succeed Peabody's Fred Berry in the state Senate.
"I think the perception is that it's just a Republican primary, but there's a Democratic ballot too," Spanos said of the upcoming election.
While Republicans Greg Bunn and Leah Cole square off to determine who goes on to the April 2 final, Beverley Griffin Dunne is also on the ballot despite being unchallenged by a Democratic opponent since former city councilor Jim Moutsoulas dropped out of the race.
Dave Gravel, who is unenrolled, does not appear on the primary ballot because it is only for political party candidates.
The party affiliation of Peabody's voters is as follows:
- 20,605 unenrolled
- 11,840 Democrats
- 3,266 Republicans
Spanos said he's aware Bunn and Cole are working hard to get out the Republican vote, but more importantly reach unenrolled voters who do make up the majority of the city's electorate. (Peabody went red again for former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown this past November, for example.)
Democrats who plan to support Dunne or Gravel may still think they just need to come out in force for April 2, Spanos surmised.
Dunne is also trying to get the message out that she's on the March 5 ballot, but offers a similar explanation to Spanos and says she would have liked to face off with Moutsoulas.
Spanos said he would have expected at least another 5 percent in the turnout if that happened.
He expects the April 2 special election, however, "will be busy" with two high-profile candidates in Dunne and Gravel against either Bunn or Cole.
"I think we could see a pretty active election," he said.
The 12th Essex District seat in the state House represents Ward 1 through 4 and Ward 5 Precinct 1 and 3 in Peabody.