(This article originally appeared in a column in the Simmons Voice on 9/26/2013)
By Taylor Rapalyea
As I write this, tens of thousands of Boston voters are heading to the Sept. 24 polls to decide which candidates will move on to the final mayoral election, casting ballots that, for the first time in two decades, don’t include Thomas Menino.
Tens of thousands of voters sounds like a great turnout, but in fact only 5.05 percent of registered voters in Boston showed up before 9 a.m., according to boston.com. One volunteer at the Holy Name Parish in West Roxbury, a popular poll spot, told the source that normally people were waiting at the door for polls to open.
“We didn’t have the big onslaught in the morning that we usually have,” said Donna Curtin.
The poll spot at Simmons College in the Kotzen Room experienced a similar slowness, with voters slowly trickling in throughout the day. But the volunteers there weren’t concerned, noting that between this being a preliminary election and a college campus, the turnout was unsurprising.
“We expect more interest in November,” stated one of the volunteers.
However, the low levels of voter turnout in Boston overall should be cause for concern. The fact that there are 12 preliminary candidates has been overwhelming. One voter at the Holy Name Parish told boston.com that the sheer amount of background information necessary to make an informed decision almost deterred him.
It’s a fair point to make. You could spend days examining each candidate and only scratch the surface. But to vote for the first new mayor of Boston in 20 years was a big deal to many, as it should be. Many believe that their vote doesn’t count, especially when there are so many candidates and no clean front runner. Here’s why they’re wrong.
Democracy doesn’t work unless citizens participate and make their voices heard. The number of candidates with similar views is mind-boggling, but whoever wins in November will largely dictate the tone of Boston, a tone that has not changed for 20 years.
Our next elected official will determine whether the MBTA is improved through better and more efficient funding, whether Boston public schools remain on par, and whether the Boston Police Department is held more accountable for their misdeeds.
Staying informed is hard, regardless of who you are. Luckily, there are several journalists and news outlets whose first-hand reporting and informed insight make your job as a resident of Boston a lot easier. As such, you have no excuse to not vote or participate in the final election Nov. 4.
Boston.com has a comprehensive profile on each of the 12 candidates, including a feature that allows you to compare the candidates’ stances on the issues side by side. If you tend to vote with your gut, the website also has a Mayoral Personality Quiz that matches you with the candidate that most fits your personality. To access these features, visit boston.com.
For a more in-depth look from an underground journalist, go to Chris Faraone’s column in the Jamaica Plain Gazette, “Politics as Unusual.” But before you do, prepare to have your concept of the candidates ripped to shreds. From Dan Conley’s less than admirable past as the Suffolk District Attorney to the corporate education reform ideals of John Connolly, Faraone leaves no stone unturned, whether you like it or not.
On the brighter side of things, he also analyzes - with great detail - what it would be like to embark on a pub crawl with each of the candidates.
To get back to meeting the candidates themselves, consider visiting WGBH’s radio interviews with each of the hopefuls. You’re certain to have a moment of “Oh my god, there are so many of them,” but the questions (and answers) are lively and sure to engage.
If you prefer TV to radio or print, hit NECN’s coverage of the Boston Mayoral candidates. In additions to listing a couple TV appearances under each contester, they also include the videos from the debates that NECN broadcasted.
In my inexpert opinion, prospective voters should utilize all of the above.
Tune in to Simmons College Radio to hear further discussion of Boston’s mayoral race. Questions and comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org