Huge turnout fuels romp for Obama-Biden

Boston politicians of an earlier generation - confident of their election day prowess and popular support - used to brag that City Hall workers would have to "weigh their votes" rather than just count 'em.

On Tuesday, a new generation of Boston voters might have spoken with a similar bravado about their chosen candidate, Barack Obama, who - along with ticket-mate Joe Biden - crushed his GOP rivals by a margin usually reserved for third-party also-rans. Spurred on by a record-breaking turnout in communities of color, Dorchester and Mattapan contributed mightily to the citywide rout, delivering the Democratic combo some 46,000 votes, or roughly six times the amount of ballots cast for John McCain and Sarah Palin.

The outcome locally was never in doubt, but city voters were clearly determined to arrive early, driven perhaps by memories of ballot shortages and nagging delays in 2006, when Gov. Deval Patrick's trailblazing election prompted record turnouts. Even before the polls opened at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, reports came trickling in of a line 100 deep at the Lower Mills Library. At the double-precinct Chittick School on the Mattapan-Hyde Park line, voters queued up around the block.

There were few reported problems in the neighborhood - and the anticipated evening rush hour was eerily quiet at most polling stations, as the vast majority of people showed up long before the deadline to play their role in history.

In the end, a look at bellwether precincts tells the tale of a lopsided Democratic romp, with just a few exceptions. Obama-Biden won every Dorchester and Mattapan precinct, except for one: the Kenny School - Ward 16, Precinct 9 - once again split from the pack by giving McCain-Palin a narrow 508 to 476 win. The Neponset schoolhouse was one of only three precincts in the entire city (the other two were in South Boston) that gave an edge to the GOP ticket. The Kenny School was also the only precinct in the neighborhood that Patrick failed to win in 2006.

In predominantly African-American neighborhoods, the margin was never in question. At the Groveland Senior Center, an unassuming building next to the Foley Senior Residences off River Street, the potent double-precinct delivered one of the city's largest vote totals - 2,326 combined - to the Dems. McCain and Palin managed just 55 votes there. The Chittick School, another double-precinct powerhouse on the Hyde Park-Mattapan line - chipped in another 2,032 for Obama-Biden, while the Republicans had to settle for just 78.

In other contested races, Senator Jack Hart swamped perennial candidate Althea Garrison by a 4 to 1 margin. Hart won 78 percent of the vote on his way to a fourth term as the senator in the First Suffolk district.

Sonia Chang-Diaz, buoyed by the late withdrawal of the incumbent Dianne Wilkerson, cruised to victory in the neighboring Second Suffolk district. She racked up nearly 60,000 votes while Wilkerson - who had suspended her write-in campaign last Friday - settled for a third-place finish after William T. Leonard, a Socialist Worker candidate.

The city's results also mirrored statewide returns on the day's three ballot questions. There was a landslide vote against a proposal to eliminate the state income tax, known as Question One. A referendum to decriminalize certain amounts of marijuana won by a 70-30 margin in Boston, slightly more than the statewide number. And, city voters approved of Question Three, which will ban dog racing in Massachusetts.

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