By Michael Sol Warren
BU News Service
Tomorrow is the Boston Municipal Election. Polls are open from 7am to 7pm. If you’re registered in Boston, you should go vote. Here are some numbers for you to think about.
The 2010 U.S. Census listed the population of Boston at 617,594 people.
According to the Boston Election Department, 372,889 of those people are registered to vote in tomorrow’s election.
Also, from the Boston Election Department, just 7.07 percent of 78,533 eligible voters cast a ballot in the Sept. 8 preliminary.*
Tomorrow’s election has four district seats and the at-large seats being contested. Strong story lines abound. Can challenger Andrea Joy Campbell take the District 4 seat away from Charles Yancey, Boston’s longest serving city councilor? Will teacher and small-business owner Annissa Eassaibi-George win an at-large seat after finishing fifth in 2013? Will the often-criticized Stephen Murphy be able to hold onto his at-large seat? Councilor Tim McCarthy has a rematch with challenger Jean-Claude Sanon in District 5, how will that turnout?
There’s a lot going on in this election, but for whatever reason no one is talking about it. It’s not for a lack of coverage — the collective media machine in Boston has churned out story after story during campaign season. It is not difficult at all for a curious person to learn about the candidates and what’s at stake.
This is bad. The less people that head to the polls, the less likely it is that election results reflect the wishes of the general public. We all know that larger sample sizes yield more truthful reflections of reality; this concept absolutely applies to our elections.
I’m not going to speculate on why there is a lack of public interest, but I will say that it’s a problem. Election participation at all levels (national, state and local) has been relatively low in the years since Senator John McCain and President Obama successfully herded the masses to the polls in 2008.
The point of our democratic society is to operate in a way that reflects the desires of the population. We all know, and we’re all constantly reminded, that voting is a civic duty. This is a very important point but I won’t dwell on it. I’d rather remind you that you very likely have a familial obligation to vote.
At some point in your family tree, somebody worked to ensure that future generations (you, we, us) would be able to express our voice and influence government. Maybe you had ancestors that fought in the American Revolution because they recognized that taxation without representation was wrong. Maybe somebody in your family marched for women’s suffrage because they realized our nation is made up of more than just men. Maybe your grandparents participated in the civil rights movement because they looked around and saw that not every person in our country is white and our political system should reflect that diversity.
Just as importantly, don’t forget that the majority of us come from immigrant families. At some point in time, someone decided to pack up and leave a familiar homeland to seek out a better life in America. Some families made that trip centuries ago; some just got here. The when doesn’t matter. What matters is that somebody made that trip so that their family could live in a place where their voices mattered.
I don’t know why so many people choose to not care about elections. But I do know that the apathy is a waste. And I do know that we all have an ancestor that wants us to use the voice they worked so hard to give us.
*The Sept. 8 preliminary was only held for District 4 and District 7 because the other races did not have enough candidates to contest a preliminary vote.