Mass. voters head to the polls in midst of a potentially massive political realignment

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As Massachusetts voters head to the polls, along with voters in 11 other states and one American territory as part of “Super Tuesday,” tens of thousands of former Bay State Democrats will today cast ballots as either Republicans or unenrolled voters.

Secretary of State William Galvin said Monday that, since the beginning of the calendar year, nearly 20,000 Democrats have unenrolled from the party of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Of those voters, the vast majority — 16,347 — changed their status to “unenrolled.” The remaining 3,455 enrolled as Republicans.

During the same time period, 5,911 Republicans officially unenrolled.

The newly unenrolled join the majority of Massachusetts voters who eschew party labels. As of February, 2,277,760 of the Bay State’s 4,271,835 registered voters were not enrolled in any political party — more than the number of voters in the two major political parties combined. (There are currently 1,490,335 registered Democrats and 468,295 registered Republicans in Massachusetts.)

In Massachusetts, unenrolled voters can make a game-day decision as to whether to vote in the Democratic, Republican, or Green-Rainbow primary.

Galvin referred to the recent shift in voter enrollment as “significant” and speculated that the driving force behind the changes may be the “Trump phenomenon.” Donald J. Trump, the Republican frontrunner,  holds a commanding lead among Bay State voters likely to cast ballots in the Republican primary today.

“The tenor of the Republican campaign has been completely different from what we’ve seen in prior Republican presidential campaigns,” Galvin said. “You have to look no farther than the viewership for some of the televised debates.

“The fact of the matter is the tenor has been very different this time. And that has an effect. People are interested. It’s exciting.”

That excitement, Galvin predicted, could lead to as many as 700,000 turning out to vote in the Republican race — more than 230,000 more voters than are registered with the party.

Galvin also said during his briefing that a possible record-high turnout could take place in Massachusetts on Super Tuesday, with a possible overall turnout north of 42 percent.

At stake in Massachusetts are 42 Republican delegates and 91 Democratic delegates. Democratic candidates need 2,383 of approximately 4,765 delegates to clinch their party’s nomination. Republican candidates need 1,237 out of 2472 delegates to clinch theirs.

Is Massachusetts witnessing a rare political realignment? And will this trend be seen nationwide?

Some analysts believe so.  Speaking on the CBS News program “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Ben Domenech, a political analyst and publisher of  the conservative website The Federalist, said that “what we’re witnessing really is a political realignment. I mean I think we’re moving from a traditional understanding of left-right politics that we’ve had for a long time.”

— State House News Service contributed to this report.