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.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."
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.
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.