Letter to the Editor: Special election would be unfair burden

To the Editor:

The past year has been one of immense awakening for the city of Boston. The joint crises in public health and racial injustice have forced us to confront the vast inequalities that plague our city. Yet as the city makes progress on many fronts, it is poised to suffer a frustrating setback.

If Mayor Walsh joins President Biden’s cabinet as Labor Secretary prior to March 5 – a very likely scenario – then the city must hold a series of special elections to fill his seat. But because the city is already set to hold its regularly scheduled mayoral elections this fall, these special elections are likely to retain little benefit. In fact, they will almost certainly cause voter fatigue and confusion. As a result, fewer individuals will cast ballots, leaving the voices of many unheard. 

Forcing voters to turn out in these special elections will disproportionately impact the city’s under-represented communities. Boston’s Black and brown, low-income, and immigrant communities have suffered especially due to the pandemic. Not only has the coronavirus harmed their health, but it has greatly impeded their employment and housing opportunities. Leaving the special elections in place will make it far more difficult for these individuals to turn out and have their opinions accounted for.

The city and state must eliminate these burdensome special elections. In doing so, they may prove that they have taken the lessons of the past year to heart.

– Cheryl Clyburn Crawford

Cheryl Clyburn Crawford is the executive director of MassVOTE, a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization dedicated to voting rights. She is also the first vice president of the NAACP Boston Branch.