This op-ed originally appeared in the Dorchester Reporter on August 19.
The 2020 election was a pivotal moment in the course of American history. It showcased both the power and fragility of our democracy - and highlighted that we must work together to protect it at all costs. As states across this country work to roll back voting rights and make it more difficult for many - but especially for people of color - to vote, we have a responsibility to stand up against voter suppression.
Which is why the Boston City Council meeting on July 21 was a revealing moment in city politics when the council voted 11-1 in favor of a resolution supporting election day voter registration.
The lone no vote? District 3 City Councilor Frank Baker. With no fanfare, no explanation, and no part in the hearings leading up to the vote, Councilor Baker cast a declarative “Nay”, cementing his position on the wrong side of history.
Councilor Baker’s lone opposition should not come as a surprise. He is, after all, Councilor No1 and the voice responsible for the colorful language heard at a council meeting earlier this year2 . At the beginning of the pandemic, he was also the only councilor3 to vote against a resolution for a moratorium on mortgage payments, evictions, and foreclosures and he has advocated for us to “take the cuffs off police, so to speak” regarding the crises we face at Mass and Cass4.
Actions such as these are why I am running to represent District 3 this November. I believe in a Boston that is equitable, a Boston that prioritizes people over profits, and a Boston in which there are no unnecessary barriers to voter participation. District 3 deserves a councilor that will stand up for every individual across Dorchester, Roxbury, Southie, and the South End. A councilor that is unafraid to speak up against those standing in the way of progress. And a councilor that will not risk the rights that so many have fought and continue to fight for today.
The proposal was not particularly controversial. The council worked with the Elections Department to ensure that the bill would be feasible in Boston and that on election day, they would have adequate resources to validate voter registrations and changes. There was ample time to raise concerns or questions, as many other councilors did, but Baker remained quiet.
There is strong evidence5 that election day voter registration increases voter turnout, with states and municipalities often seeing an increase after implementation. The practice simply makes it easier for individuals to cast their votes and any effort to stand in the way of this should not go unquestioned.
Every Bostonian’s voice deserves to be heard. We should allow 16- and 17-year olds as well as non-citizens the opportunity to vote. As taxpayers and recipients of services across our $3.6 billion budget, their voice is as important as every other. While seeking to bring more people into the democratic process, we cannot allow for any efforts that make it more difficult to vote. I am a “Yes” on this resolution and I urge our representatives on Beacon Hill to act swiftly on the home rule petition in front of them. And I am committed to listening to and standing up for the voices across District 3 and look forward to the opportunity to represent them in City Hall.