Walsh urges early voting, shares preparations ahead of election

In a press conference Friday outside of City Hall, Mayor Martin Walsh provided important logistical information for Bostonians ahead of the November 3 state and presidential election.

“Yesterday the city’s election commission certified our plan for early vote sites and ballot box drop off locations for the November 3rd election,” he said.

“For those who still need to register to vote, the deadline to do so is Saturday, Oct 24. For those of you that are just coming of voting age, make sure you register to vote. It’s one of the most important things you can do— vote in the presidential election.”

Early voting in Boston will begin on Sat., Oct. 17 and go through Fri., Oct. 30. All registered voters will be able to vote at any of the 21 early voting locations.

Early voting locations in Dorchester and Mattapan are listed below:

Saturday,Oct.17 from 11a.m.-7 p.m.; & Sunday, Oct. 18, 11 a.m.-7p.m.
-Richard J. Murphy K-8 School (Cafeteria), 1 Worrell St., Dorchester

Saturday, Oct., 24: 11am-7pm & Sunday, October 25: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
-BCYF Perkins (Gymnasium), 155 Talbot Ave., Dorchester
-Mildred Avenue K-8 (Gymnasium), 5 Mildred Ave., Mattapan
-The Salvation Army Kroc Center, 650 Dudley St., Dorchester

“All in person early voting locations will have advanced covid health and safety protocols including social distancing and sanitizing procedures, and all poll workers are trained in the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment,”said Walsh.

To receive a vote by mail ballot, voters must first complete, sign and return the prepaid postcard application to the Election Department by 5 p.m. on Wed., Oct, 28.

“If you return by mail, we want to ask that you please return it as soon as possible so that you’re not waiting for the last minute,” said Walsh.

The election department will begin mailing out ballots in early October, Walsh said. Returned ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 6. There are 17 mail in ballot drop boxes across the city.

“I want you to keep in mind, if you request a mail in ballot you can not return your completed ballot to your polling location on Election Day. You’ll have to go in and vote,” said Walsh.

The mayor also provided new covid data, saying that 70 new cases were reported Thursday bringing the city total to 16,836; and that one covid patient died, bringing the death total to 762. Walsh said that the city's positive rate was “roughly level with this time last week” at 2.7 percent.

The daily average of new cases in the city was 49, showing a decrease from the previous week.

“We’ve seen a slight increase in our hospitalization numbers; it has not crossed our threshold for major concern at this point but we’re monitoring those numbers very closely,” said Walsh.

We’re bringing new resources to the neighborhoods and areas where they need it.”

He added that Boston Public Schools will “only move forward with in-person learning if the covid data stays within certain thresholds.”

“Monday we kicked off the school year with online learning for all students. We are planning a gradual introduction of in-person learning, starting with the highest need students and youngest students,” said Walsh.

“We will only hold in-person learning if our positivity test rate is below 4 percent citywide. Right now we’re at 2.7 percent, and we’ll continue to monitor the data closely and will make adjustments if needed.

When asked if he was concerned that the city’s covid numbers could potentially enter the “red zone” of a 4 percent positive rate, Walsh said: “There’s a very real possibility that Boston will be in the red zone, according to the state numbers, but we’re monitoring these infection rates on a daily basis [and] we’re also doing the seven day average.
As of right now I am not overly concerned about Boston going to a 4 percent city daily positive rate, but certainly it’s not within my or our control to see that we don’t go above that rate. The reason why we did the phases is so that if we are heading toward 4 percent if we want to delay a phase or pull back, we’re not shutting the entire district down.”

Some BPS students with special needs are expected to return to in-person learning on October 1.

“If we see that number, then we could suspend school for the kids that are in school which will be a smaller number, and then postpone the other phases,” said Walsh.

He added that the city will continue to provide resources for its restaurants and small business owners.

“We’ve worked extremely hard to help our small businesses and restaurants during these difficult times. We’ll continue to support with resources so they can safely serve their customers. We’re keeping the total number of people at any table to six people for the time being,” he said.

“Boston is in a different place than many other cities and towns in Massachusetts. We have a higher density, and we continue to watch the data on a day-to-day basis. We continue to put safety first and we will only loosen restrictions when we know it’s safe to do so.”

Walsh recently extended the outdoor dining program for restaurants, allowing the use of outdoor space as long as the public health emergency lasts. Establishments using public space on streets and sidewalks can continue until December 1.

“At that point the city will re-evaluate the covid-19 situation, and also the weather. Unfortunately the weather here in Massachusetts might not be cooperative with us. We’ve waived all application fees for the use of outdoor propane heaters in dining areas for the colder months.”

The mayor commented on the recent decision by the grand jury ruling in the Breonna Taylor case, in which only one officer was indicted on counts of endangerment. Taylor was fatally shot in March by Louisville police officers in her own home.

“We need to recognize the root of the pain. Most of the demonstrations we’ve seen around the country have been painful. But in Louisville the other night two police officers were shot. Those families were impacted by violence as well,” said Walsh.

The mayor asked any protesters in Boston to keep any potential demonstrations “safe.”

“People are deeply upset, but we can not turn to violence to express our pain. I’m asking people who are planning to demonstrate in Boston tonight and over the weekend to respect the city and keep it safe, peaceful and powerful. We are still in the middle of a pandemic,” he said.

When asked about District 4 City Councillor Andrea Campbell’s recent announcement that she’s running for mayor in 2021, Walsh had this to say: “I talked to the councillor yesterday morning and I congratulated her and thanked her for the call, we both share a passion for making Boston a great place. She’s been a city councillor for six years and we’ve worked on a lot of different issues together. I look forward to having conversations about advancing Boston at some point in the future.
There will be plenty of time to talk about campaigning and all that stuff but right now I’m focused on my job as the Mayor of Boston.”

A reporter asked Walsh directly if he had any plans to announce his own campaign.

“Not right now,” he replied with a smile.