Where were all the voters?
The first of two elections to choose the next mayor of Boston has come and gone. Two finalists have been chosen. It’ll be an exciting and informative six weeks until the Nov. 5 balloting.
A little more than 30 percent of Bostonians who are registered to vote in the city made their ways to the polls on Tuesday, a day that dawned with blue skies that persisted through a glorious, 60-degree mid-September day.
To the 113,222 Bostonians who took the five or ten minutes out of their day to wait in a short line (or more than likely, no line) to cast their ballot in the first open mayor’s race in a generation: Thank you for doing your civic duty.
To the 70 percent – more than a quarter-million people – who are on the voting rolls but didn’t darken the voting booth on Tuesday: What the hell is wrong with you?
Did you somehow forget? Did Bill Walczak’s plane with the banner not fly right over your house on Monday? Did you not get one of the three-dozen mail pieces that the rest of us got over the last week with the date of the election stamped all over it? Do none of the dozen or so electronic devices— TVs, radios, smart phones, tablets— within arm’s reach of your person at this very moment function?
There’s a temptation to resign ourselves to the idea that 30 percent is a decent turnout for a mayoral election, in part because other recent mayoral preliminary elections have likewise seen abysmal participation. Like 2009, when the first-round turnout was 23 percent— with some 81,000 voters. We did better this time, right?
Wrong! This was a wide-open mayor’s race, with a historic opportunity to make history – whatever your version of that history might be: the first woman, the first African-American, the first Latino, the first Cape Verdean, the first Irishman (of the new century).
Even if historic frames are irrelevant to you, why don’t you care enough about the city you live in to vote? Most of these candidates did not lack for substance, ideas, or hustle. They brought forth some pretty good ideas – from installing rubber sidewalks to dismantling City Hall itself – that merited your attention, if for no other reason than they’ll use your tax dollars to pay for them.
But you sat it out. Why?
I’m especially interested to know why half of the roughly 60 percent of Bostonians who turned out to vote for president in 2008 and 2012 were no-shows on Tuesday. Then, you waited in ‘round-the-block lines, probably took a half-day off from work, to vote for a political leader you’re almost guaranteed to never meet in person. But, you couldn’t care less about coming out and waiting in no line to pick the person – perhaps one of your neighbors – who’ll have the most power over day-to-day life in your city and neighborhood, and maybe for the next decade or more. Huh?
I’d love to hear from some of those 30 percenters who vote in the presidential and not for mayor. Please send me an e-mail and explain it to the rest of us. Thanks in advance. But if you happen to be part of that other 30 percent – that group that never votes, even for president – don’t waste your energy. I don’t care what you think.
– Bill Forry