Study Finds Wide Voter Participation Gap in Holyoke

A study released earlier this month by the Springfield Institute, shows that people of color in Holyoke, Massachusetts are turning out at the polls in slowly increasing numbers, but that a wide voter participation gap still persists between them and white voters in the city. 

The Springfield Institute’s study had an ambitious hypothesis about last year’s mayoral race that elected 22 year-old Alex Morse in Holyoke, says Peter Skurman, a recent Amherst College graduate who worked on the study. 

“Our hypothesis was that Mayor Morse was a transcendent candidate in that he may have been able to awake the city’s gigantic Latino population, and ideally close the disparity gap between high-minority wards and low-minority wards.”

Instead, Skurman says, Mayor Morse won with high numbers in the city’s more white, progressive upper wards, whose voters turned out in significantly higher numbers than what the study calls the city’s high-minority downtown wards. 

Aron Goldman, director of the Springfield Institute, says both Morse and his rival, former Mayor Elaine Pluta, reached out to those areas. But even though the number of registered voters in those wards has climbed, it still lags far behind what the study describes as low-minority wards. Goldman says despite Morse’s efforts to promote higher voter turnout, it could take years to close the voter participation gap. 

“It may be the case that Alex Morse is doing all the right things, and there are reasons to believe that he is. It’s just that these things take time, and subsequent election cycles will tell us really if things are changing.”

Goldman says voter turnout among people of color, namely the city’s Latino residents, could continue to rise because of the presidential election. The deadline to register to vote in the general election in Massachusetts is October 17th.