By Amber Tai
Boston University News Service
Boston – Today marks Election Day, with polls opening from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. across 80 communities in the state.
The race for councilor-at-large is competitive, featuring eight candidates battling for four seats. Incumbents Julie Mejia, Ruthzee Louijeune, and Erin Murphy are running alongside newcomers Bridget Nee-Walsh, Shawn Nelson, Henry Santana, Catherine Vitale, and Clifton Braithwaite. Notably, longtime city councilor-at-large Michael Flaherty is not seeking re-election.
This election is pivotal as it could sway the council’s political leaning, potentially shifting it slightly to the right. The absence of concurrent statewide and national races may contribute to a lower voter turnout. Some polling stations, such as those at the State House, Boston Public Library, and Boston University, have seen fewer than 20 voters before noon.
Before Election Day, projections estimated voter turnout at a mere 30%. Despite this, individuals like Belen Ordóñez, a 19-year-old student from Argentina attending Boston University, are participating. “Like to me, it’s a real privilege to get to vote,” she expressed, casting her ballot for the second time in the United States.
Helen Yee, 63, a resident of Back Bay, emphasized the importance of voting in every election. “Every election becomes more and more important to vote,” she said, after voting today with her husband.“I feel democracy is at stake and I want my voice to be heard.” She believes in the significance of this election and voted for Henry Santana for at-large councilor due to Mayor Wu’s endorsement and for Ruthzee Louijeune, citing her service reputation and media presence.
Candidate visibility is proving to be a decisive factor for voters. Alli Achtmeyer, 49, from Beacon Hill, shared her perspective on the importance of personal engagement. “You know, it’s not impressive to me if the other person doesn’t even come around to meet the people that she’s going to be representing. But he was everywhere,” she said, explaining her support for Henry Santana.
With a focus on women’s rights and LGBTQ rights, Ordóñez meticulously reviewed the websites of all the candidates and sought information from social media to select those whose platforms aligned with her priorities. She discovered that, although the city council election is nonpartisan, the candidates with Democratic affiliations tended to align more closely with her views.
In the digital age, a strong online presence is crucial. All at-large candidates have established personal websites. Ruthzee Louijeune boasts the highest social media following, with 47,621 followers across three platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), and maintains a website detailing her biography, platform, endorsements, and events. Julia Mejia and Erin Murphy also have significant online followings.
Beyond self-promotion, the fundamental issues at the heart of the election remain the primary drivers of voter decisions. Joe Kinsella, 54, a resident of Beacon Hill, expressed his skepticism about the efficacy of rent control in the long term and his aversion to candidates who endorse anti-vaccine sentiments. “So to me, I can delete those clear no on the list,” he stated, indicating his criteria for ruling out certain candidates.