"Like most other municipalities, turnout in Boston in off years is pathetic: only 16.5 percent of registered voters cast ballots in Boston’s 2019 city council election. Secretary of State Bill Galvin is predicting turnout to be even lower than in 2013, despite Boston growing by 9 percent over the past decade. Turnout is not only low, but also racially skewed. Hispanic turnout was almost six times lower in the 2019 off-cycle election than in the 2020 presidential race. The share of Hispanic voters in the electorate was also 39 percent lower in 2019. Local elections determine control over public education – in a city where 43 percent of public school children are Hispanic, this loss of Hispanic voice in local government exacerbates existing racial disparities.
What accounts for the low turnout and racial disparities in local races? The problem is simple: Boston, like 80 percent of American cities, holds its local elections in odd-numbered years, or “off-cycle.” This practice dates back a century, when Progressive Era reformers believed that off-cycle elections would insulate local contests from national politics. In reality, however, this practice dramatically depresses turnout.
A recent issue brief released by policy action lab Policy for Progress explains why. Holding local elections off-cycle places an extra burden on voters by forcing them to know the date of their local election and take another trip to the polls. Without high-profile national races on the ballot, this added burden often means the difference between voting and staying home."
|"How do we solve this problem? There’s a simple fix: eliminate off-cycle elections"|