Editorial: Vote early, but not prematurely, in mayoral election

Are you still trying to decide whom to vote for in the Sept. 14 preliminary election for mayor of Boston? You’re not alone.

One poll conducted recently and released by Emerson and 7News last week found that 25 percent of respondents were undecided. A memo written for supporters of one of the five major candidates in the field suggested that number could be much higher— and that many voters who have a preference now could shift to a different candidate before election day.

But, here’s the thing about this year’s municipal election: Balloting has already begun.

Many of us received mail-in ballots last week. Early voting polling locations open in various parts of the city this Saturday.

For much of the electorate, the early voting option is not only convenient, but quite practical at a time in which the pandemic seems to be resurgent. Additionally, most people likely have a strong idea of their preferences for mayor and the council seats that are also on the preliminary ballot.

But what about those of us who aren’t locked in yet? The summer months aren’t typically prime time for voter attention spans. And even for those of us who’ve been following this election cycle closely— myself included— there are still outstanding questions about which candidate in this mayoral field is the right fit.

I count myself in that category, too: I like and respect each of the five major candidates running for mayor. Any one of these candidates could—in my view— capably and credibly be the mayor for the next four years.

But I’m not sold on any specific person just yet.

So, I’m going to wait until late next week to make up my mind on the mayoral choice.

Why? There are two back-to-back televised debates next week.

The Reporter is partnering with NBC10 Boston and its affiliates, as well as the Bay State Banner, to sponsor the first debate, which will be broadcast live on Wed., Sept. 8. The hour-long event begins 7 p.m. on NBC10 and New England Cable News (NECN) and Telemundo’s website. It will air in Spanish on Telemundo Boston at a later time. Latoyia Edwards, a fellow Dorchester native, will moderate the debate with questions posed from reporters and select readers of the Banner and the Reporter who have been invited to submit questions for consideration.

Then, on Thurs., Sept. 9, WBUR and WCVB-TV Ch. 5 — along with the Boston Globe and UMass Boston— are sponsoring a second debate, also set to be broadcast live at 7p.m.

From this vantage point, it feels premature to settle on a candidate without the opportunity to see and hear them interact on the debate stages next week. Yes, there have been ample opportunities for the candidates to lay out policy positions and exchange views with each other and with voters. But next week looms as the decisive moment to demonstrate their leadership style and poise with just days left before the final votes are cast on Sept. 14.

We are fortunate to have a strong field of choices in this election. It has been hard fought but appropriately uncontentious contest to date. The ideas and explanations that will likely emerge from next week’s forums will give voters the final insights they need to make a fully informed choice. And, there will still be ample opportunities to vote remotely and safely ahead of the Sept. 14 balloting citywide if you so choose.

Good luck to all of the candidates.

Bill Forry is executive editor and publisher of the Dorchester Reporter. Follow him at @BillForry.

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