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City offers range of voting options

Saraya Wintersmith, GBH News
City offers range of voting options
PHOTO: UNSPLASH

Boston will have more options for voters to avoid standing in line come Election Day. The city’s Board of Election Commissioners Tuesday approved 20 drop box sites and 19 early voting sites for this year’s September 14 preliminary and November 2 general elections.

The approvals, which include nine additional early voting sites and three new drop box sites in Dorchester, came after at least two of acting Mayor Kim Janey’s challengers complained publicly about the lack of early voting sites in their neighborhoods.

Janey subsequently asked the board to add early voting places in Chinatown, Mission Hill, the South Boston Waterfront and Roslindale.

Boston’s early voting schedule will now include early voting sites in most neighborhoods.

The drop boxes, which offer voters another option for returning ballots outside of election date, will be under 24-hour video surveillance and emptied daily, measures intended to prevent vandalism like last year’s arson attack, according to election commission officials.

The board’s approval of the early voting options came one day before the voter registration cutoff for Boston’s September 14 preliminary election.

Voters have until 8 p.m. Wednesday, August 25 to register to participate.

Boston has received nearly 10,000 vote-by-mail applications in the month since Gov. Charlie Baker temporarily authorized the process, according to the city’s election commission. The volume of applications suggests Boston voters are wary of standing on voting lines amid rising COVID-19 case loads, which led acting Mayor Janey to revive a public indoor mask mandate across the city.

Sabino Piemonte, Head Assistant Registrar for the election department, said Tuesday during the Board of Election Commissioners meeting the agency has satisfied about half of those applications
so far.

The deadline to submit an application to vote by mail is Wednesday, September 8 at 5 p.m.

During the November 2020 election, Boston had 431,956 voters. About 10 percent of those were considered “inactive,” meaning they had either failed to re-register after moving from their listed address, or did not respond to the city’s annual resident census.

Sixty-eight percent of registered voters turned out to cast ballots in that election.

By contrast, Boston’s mayoral preliminary elections typically feature low turnout.

In the 2017 preliminary, Boston had a total of 390,136 registered voters. Slightly more than 14 percent cast ballots in that election, according to data from the city elections department.

In 2013, when former mayor Marty J. Walsh ascended to the runoff against John R. Connolly, Boston had 368,207 registered voters. Nearly 31 percent of voters showed up to cast ballots in that preliminary election to replace former Mayor Tom Menino, who chose not to run for a sixth term.

Saraya Wintersmith covers Boston City Hall for GBH News.

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