Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What I learned in the 2013 Mayoral Primary

It's a tradition of mine to hold signs for candidates in Chinatown. I don't remember how it started- I think someone needed someone there a few years ago- but it's one I enjoy as I don't live in that area and it's always a good lesson to see how other areas of Boston operate.

I had called my candidate's office the day before to tell them I was available. They told me that someone was scheduled to show up at the Chinatown polling station, but they would give me my number and we could coordinate. In the meantime, a good friend of mine asked if I would, basically, put my feet where my mouth was and help collect signatures for the RaiseUpMA campaign. There are two initiatives, one to raise the minimum wage to $10.50 per hour (for the princely annual sum of $21840) and another for Earned Sick Time, which would prevent employees from being penalized for calling out sick. I thought that would be a good way for my sons to witness politics and policy in action, plus give me some time to hang out with a good friend for a few hours.

We started out at the local library and community center where people used to vote. That site had since moved, but we were able to collect a few signatures from some very enthusiastic residents before we moved on to get some lunch.

These people placed. Why? They had signs. (Photo by Reuters)

Next we went to my polling place. Finally, I would get to vote. When I got there a little after 1, less than 200 people from my precinct had voted- but that was an improvement over the last mayoral election cycle. Ah, democracy! Even with that low turnout, we were able to make a good dent into our signatures; I'm sure having one of my sons break the ice helped me at least.

By the time my husband left with my sons (after he signed the petitions), I was ready to move onto Chinatown. I stopped to get a bite to eat, then made it to the station. Much to my dismay, no one from my candidate's campaign was there. Even worse, I didn't see one sign for him either. I was very concerned: Chinatown may not have the most turnout usually, but that joint was jumping yesterday. More to the point, another candidate was there in person. You know what that said to me? That he wanted to be mayor of all of Boston.

Who else was at that station? Three other people collecting signatures for the RaiseUpMA campaign. After getting two signatures and chatting a bit, I went to the next closest polling station at the corner of East Berklee and Tremont. Once again, I did not see any signs for my candidate- but I did see two other people collecting signatures for my campaign. Alrighty then! Off to the BPL, even though I was told there wouldn't be a lot of voting.

Do I even need to tell you at this point that I didn't see signs for my candidate but that two other people showed up to collect signatures? After I got a decent number, I moved on. After I got one signature at the Boston Architectural College, I finally landed at the polling station on Mass Ave. right near the Orange Line T stop. You guessed it- my candidate did not have any signs up there.

There was not a lot of voting, and overall I'd call it one of the more apathetic polling places I got to. But you know what? That's where I collected the majority of my signatures. While some people did have some crazy reasons for not signing ("I live for today" was my favorite), the majority who didn't sign either weren't registered to vote in Boston or were obviously rushing to catch a train. But most Boston voters happily signed, and one woman even said "Give me that!" as soon as I explained what we were trying to do.

So what did I learn? That if you want to win- or place or get something done- you have to show up. As much as we want to blame voter apathy- and yes, it's a real thing- for not getting the results we want, sorry, that just wasn't good enough yesterday. Turnout ended up being much higher than the 2009 race which, given the dynamics, makes sense. I didn't predict that...but then again nobody was depending on me for that prognosis.

I got all of the signatures I needed with an hour to spare before the election was called, and based on all of the people I'd run into and there numbers, I know my campaign did very well.

Thank you, Boston.

Deb in the City


Rich said...

Although most experts will say signs don't win votes, it does tell you something about the organization.
That could be:
1. They don't have enough volunteers.
2. They are not organized.
3. They don't follow up on where people are.
4. The wrong people are handling the task.

It doesn't help the enthusiasm of your volunteers if they ask to do something you say no thanks and then it is not covered. Very frustrating.

Deb Nam-Krane said...

Right- I don't think having a sign would have won this for them, but it shows how not present they were in those communities. And having just reviewed the turnout data, I think that's a mistake. In a citywide election, you need to show that you're interested in governing all of the city, not just your strongholds.