Saturday, November 03, 2007

Will Team Unity Fall to Team Low Turnout?

The last week or so has seen the politics punditry a-flutter with speculation that there will be low turnout in Tuesday's municipal election that might result in the defeat of Councilors-At-Large Felix Arroyo and Sam Yoon. Wrote blogger Marry in Massachusetts, "Will Team Unity survive a low-interest contest?"

The argument goes like this. Tuesday's election will have low turnout because: (1) it is an off-year municipal election because the Mayor is not up for re-election until 2009; and (2) the mainstream media has not covered the race, totally ignoring the preliminary municipal election, for example, until only after it had taken place. Low voter turnout emphasizes "reliable" voters -- elderly, wealthy, and white -- while de-emphasizing the opposite. On BNN's Talk of the Neighborhood show last Tuesday, David Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix told host Joe Heisler that a low turnout vote emphasizes old Boston over the new, white over minority, and seniors over younger voters.

Minority candidates like Team Unity's Councilors Arroyo and Yoon will get hit hard by the low turnout, while majority candidates -- like Team Irish's challenger John Connolly and Councilors Michael Flaherty and Stephen Murphy -- will fare well. Wrote the Boston--Bay State Banner:
For Arroyo and Yoon, success depends largely on who will turn out. In the last off-year election in 2003, Arroyo garnered 75 percent of the vote in predominantly African American Ward 12. Flaherty got 25 percent of the vote.

In South Boston’s Ward 6, Flaherty garnered 86 percent of the vote to Arroyo’s 25 percent.

While people of color make up more than half the city’s population, the whites in Flaherty’s voting base turn out in greater numbers.
But that article then contradicted the story line by noting that Connolly and Councilor Murphy are both courting people of color in this election; if they, too, are reaching out to minority voters in order to get elected, then why would low turnout work in their favor? More likely is that Connolly and Councilor Murphy have far less support in minority neighborhoods than their supporters would like you to believe, reinforcing the point that they would benefit from low turnout. Retired school teacher Bob Marshall was quoted by them as saying, "I’m not voting for anybody else," he said. "These Councilors [Arroyo and Yoon] have been on the front lines when it comes to dealing with communities of color."

Bernstein argued on BNN that city politics are steadily moving towards to the point where no one can run city-wide unless they appeal to minorities and urban progressives. He predicted a voting bloc on the City Council to develope in the next 4-6 years, representing the new Boston -- whether explicitly minority, like Team Unity, or not.

Allston-Brighton may buck some of these voter turnout trends, since we have a lively race for the open District 9 seat being vacated by Councilor Jerry McDermott. Turnout of 4500 voters at last month's preliminary municipal election may have been a little lower than expected, but may very well set the stage for proportionately higher voting in A-B in the municipal election November 6th as compared with the rest of the city. (A-B historically turns out the vote at lower percentages of registered voters than most of the rest of the city, so I am referring to A-B potentially delivering a larger percentage of the overall number of voters than in past elections.) That all of the active candidates for Councilor-At-Large showed up last month for our Brighton candidates forum speaks not only to their renewed interest in the issues of our neighborhood, but likely also to a political calculation that A-B turnout this year could be more important than usual to the Councilor-At-Large election.

1 comment:

Jeremy B. said...

Kudos for making a case against Connolly based on issues that the local media don't even seem to have studied in their next-to-non-existent City Council election coverage. You might have added that he is against the tenants' collective bargaining rights ordinance, as well.

But... "The Irishman doesn't seem to have the background of an urban progressive"? To me a foundational tenet of progressive politics is that one's lineage should not determine one's life chances, nor how we judge that person.

And the reference to Connolly's ethnicity was just crude and unnecessary. What about the Irishman Matt Geary? He's running on the Socialist Alternative ticket, but because where his ancestors came from gives him more in common with Murphy and Baby Flats than with Yoon and Arroyo, I suppose we're best to just write him off, correct?

Your blog is one of the most invaluable resources for local politics, as three-quarters of this post demonstrates. But the "Irishman" comment was definitely old Boston.