High anxiety on election night

The wait for solid results in this week’s Boston’s municipal election is maddening for voters, volunteers and, of course, candidates, some of whom went to bed on Tuesday not knowing whether they had won or lost.

As Wednesday morning clicked toward noon, there were still many people wondering if the results of the mayoral contest could be undone, perhaps by a still-ongoing count of mailed-in ballots that had arrived before an 8 p.m. deadline on Tuesday.

We, of course, wondered the same and checked with top sources, including campaign officials who wanted desperately to think their candidate might still have some life left. It was not going to happen, at least not for the mayoral ballot. It will be Wu v. Essaibi George.

The Janey camp— which was at first hesitant to call it quits— conceded defeat ‘round about midnight in a statement, rather than through televised remarks. Andrea Campbell, her husband by her side at Prince Hall, had given up the ghost more than an hour earlier. She congratulated Wu and Essaibi George, the clearest indication to that point that the race was, indeed, a done deal.

It was the responsible thing to do. At a time in which democracy is under sustained assault from Trumpists who deliberately seek to undermine the veracity of results, these candidates did the right thing. Competent campaigns gather their own results directly from the polls on election night. They do their own counts, independent of city officialdom. At a certain hour, they know internally where they’ve landed and how big the gap might be between them and their competitors.

For the public, which doesn’t get a peek into these “boiler room” operations, it can make for a wild ride, particularly when City Hall is slow to update their website with information about results. Such was the case this week— a problem exacerbated by ballots that were mailed-in or dropped off late in the day on Sept. 14. These, too, needed to be counted and apportioned to their relevant precincts in the city. Officials in the city’s Election Department, we’re told, held off on posting real-time updates late into the night due to this issue.

That makes for high anxiety for Bostonians and observers deeply invested in the outcome. That’s true, too, for candidates for at-large city council, many of whom don’t have the sophisticated ground game needed to get a full picture of what’s happening at polls citywide.

As this editorial was being finished on Wednesday morning, the complete results were released by city officials, showing that the earlier order of finishes stands. Incumbents Michael Flaherty and Julia Mejia will be the top two finishers, in that order. Next up: an impressive third place finish for fresh-face Ruthzee Louijeune, who built a formidable big-tent coalition that includes everyone from Sen. Warren to the Local 718 firefighters. And Erin Murphy, who debuted as a citywide candidate two years ago, is a solid fourth-place finisher, a big improvement for her over 2019. It’s a tight bunch for the remaining four slots on the November ballot, with Dorchester’s Carla Monteiro, David Halbert and Althea Garrison all in the mix, along with South Boston’s Brigid Nee-Walsh, another first-time candidate.

In her statement on Wednesday morning, acting Mayor Janey said she was “committed to ensuring a smooth transition for the next Mayor so that SHE will be able to hit the ground running.” We appreciate the sentiment and hope that city government will seek to make a more smoother election night experience one of the tasks at hand.

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