Roxbury and Dorchester see steady voter turnout

Voters line up outside the Lower Mills branch of the Boston Public Library, a Dorchester polling station, on Tuesday. Photo by Anoushka Dalmia/BU News Service

By Mita Kataria
BU News Service

On the chilly morning of Nov. 3, under scattered rain clouds that gave way to snow and strong winds, a steady stream of voters flowed into polling locations in Roxbury and Dorchester.

Dennis Jones, the polling station warden at John Winthrop Elementary School in Roxbury, said the voter turnout had been good since that morning. He said that even with social distancing guidelines, people didn’t have to wait long to vote. During an afternoon lull at the station, Jones, a Roxbury resident for the last 30 years, said that he expected more people to show up in the evening after work. 

Roxbury and Dorchester recorded the most severe declines in voter turnout in the 2016 elections. This year, Jones said the voter turnout was much better than what he’d seen the past few years. 

A poll worker looks at voters coming in on Election Day at John Winthrop Elementary School, a polling station in Roxbury. Photo by Anoushka Dalmia/BU News Service

At Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School, Michael Kozu, who has been working the polls for the past sixteen years, said that he had been at the station since 6:45 a.m. and saw long lines of voters before the doors opened. 

“There was a long line at the start,” he said. “People were waiting half an hour to an hour before we got them in.”

Kozu shared a similar sentiment as Jones, noting that his day had been extremely busy. 

“This is one time I get to sit, finally,” Kozu said, catching a moment of rest a few minutes past noon. 

The pandemic continues to loom large over the voting process, with a recent spike in cases compelling Gov. Charlie Baker to announce stricter guidelines Nov. 2. 

Kozu said that it had been hard to manage the strict social distancing guidelines since the poll workers did not want people to wait out in the cold, but they were “trying to do their bit.” 

Michael Kozu, a poll worker, guides voters at Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School, a Dorchester polling station, on Tuesday. Photo by Mita Kataria/BU News Service

At other locations like the Lower Mill branch of Boston Public Library in Dorchester, people were asked to stand six feet apart and use hand sanitizer before entering the polling station. Up until the afternoon, Kozu and Jones reported no complaints of voters not following any safety guidelines.

The pandemic also forced many people to either mail their ballots or vote early, but many voters were still expected to vote on Election Day. Massachusetts’ Secretary of State, William Galvin, remained confident of a high voter turnout on Election Day despite the pandemic and other forms of voting. 

“Some 1.3 million people are expected to vote in-person at polling stations Tuesday,” he told NBC Boston.

A voter is handed over her paperwork on Election Day at John Winthrop Elementary School, a polling station in Roxbury. Photo by Anoushka Dalmia/BU News Service

Tiffany Robinson, 30, said she requested a mail-in ballot for the September primaries, but the ballot never reached her. 

“That made me decide that rather than risk anything — having an issue with mail-in voting — I would just come in person,” Robinson said.

Bettina Anderson, who has been living in Roxbury for seventeen years, said, “Hopefully it’ll be a good turnout, and we’ll have a new president.” 

Anderson also said she came out to vote in-person because she’s a “people person.” 

Voters at the polls willing to share their voter preferences leaned towards voting for Joe Biden in the presidential election and Ed Markey in the Senate race. 

When asked, the ballot questions had more varied results. A yes on the first question — Right to Repair — would allow local repair shops access to vehicle data with user permission. A yes on the second question on the ballot would allow Massachusetts voters to implement ranked choice voting in all elections beginning 2022.

James Twohig, from Standish Village Assisted Living said that he voted no on both the questions. 

“It’s not about people getting data,” he said. “It’s about mechanics not knowing what they’re doing.”

On the question of ranked choice voting, Twohig emphasized the importance of having a single, clear winner. 

“Whoever wins, should win,” he said.

“I am voting yes on ranked choice voting,” says Senator Markey during his visit to a Dorchester polling station on Tuesday. Photo by Anoushka Dalmia/BU News Service

Senator Ed Markey, who visited the Lower Mills branch of the Boston Public Library in Dorchester, said that he had voted yes on ranked choice voting. Sen. Markey said it ensured that everyone’s voice gets heard and that the candidate most preferred by the voters would win. 

“I believe it puts the ‘D’ in ‘democracy’,” he said.

Addis Parris, 35, who was volunteering as a poll worker for the first time, came in to cast her vote. She voted yes on both ballot questions. She believes that more access to data would in turn help customers. 

An educator, Parris shared she voted yes for ranked choice voting because it would help shift the focus from a two-party system. It would give a chance to independent candidates and more choices to voters. 

“It’ll give folks a chance to choose among instead of between,” Parris said. 

Addis Parris picks up a complimentary hot chilli from a Fresh Food Generation Food Truck after voting at a Dorchester polling station on Tuesday. Photo by Mita Kataria/BU News Service

Parris, who voted for Biden, hoped this election outcome would bring about a multi-faceted change in the country. She wants more security for marginalized communities in the country — people who protect their interests. 

“I hope we can move forward to a place where marginalized people don’t have to be so heightened and aware and worried and fearful all the time,” she said. 

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