By Alan Burke
---- — PEABODY — A low turnout in today’s special election could give enormous influence to folks residing at a single address.
Three candidates are vying to fill the state representative seat left vacant by the death in November of Joyce Spiliotis. The challengers include Democrat and school board member Beverley Ann Griffin Dunne; City Councilor and former school board member David Gravel, who is running as an unenrolled candidate; and political newcomer Leah Cole, a Republican.
City Clerk Tim Spanos is predicting a 28 percent turnout, or roughly 7,500 ballots cast. So far, absentee votes total only 200.
Veteran candidate and City Councilor Jim Liacos expects an even lower turnout.
“Who is going to realize there is an election in April?” he asked, predicting that this contest is likely to attract mostly people with a high interest in politics, including those who have worked on campaigns in the past.
Liacos predicts a turnout closer to 20 percent.
Moreover, Liacos suggested, “I think Brooksby Village will be huge. They (ordinarily) vote 80 to 90 percent. They are players in every election.”
Brooksby Village, located off Route 114, is a retirement community large enough that it has its own voting precinct. Given that seniors tend to vote more often than others, they are also aided here by the fact they scarcely have to leave home to do it.
“You’ve just got to get the shuttle bus over to the MacIntosh Building,” said Spanos, referring to the on-site community center. He predicts a turnout at Brooksby of 50 percent in this special election.
Given there are 1,545 voters registered at Brooksby Village, even a 50 percent turnout could amount to more than 10 percent of the total vote.
“We’re also a very well-educated and well-informed group,” said Beth McNelis, Brooksby’s director of philanthropy and communications.
Candidates must be invited before they’re allowed on-site, she adds, but once given the word, they come. “They know we have a strong voting record.”
All the state representative candidates participated in a forum there in February.
Today’s election affects only a portion of Peabody, although a major portion, including wards 1 through 4 and precincts 1 and 3 in Ward 5. Ward 6 and the rest of Ward 5 are part of Rep. Ted Speliotis’ district.
Polls will be open today from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.