Just as what is expected to be a wave of candidates taking out Nomination Papers for virtually every office this coming Monday, May 17, there will also be some new changes in the voting regimen as ward-only voting for Council and School Committee has been officially established in this year’s Election calendar.
City Clerk Sergio Cornelio said this week that he is preparing in his office to release Nomination Papers on May 17, and expects to have a lot of interest in every office this year.
Already, there are three announced mayoral candidates who will be taking out papers, including Mayor Carlo DeMaria, Councilor Gerly Adrien and Councilor Fred Capone. With those three candidates likely to make the ballot, and great interest in seats on the Council and School Committee, Cornelio said they do expect there to be a robust Preliminary Election on Sept. 21 to weed out candidates for the final Municipal Election on Nov. 2.
“I do feel that we’ll have a mayoral Preliminary Election and I do feel there may be some other Preliminaries at this point too,” he said. “I’m confident all three mayoral candidates will get on the ballot…There are a lot of people running and talking about running already.”
For any ward races, it would also take three candidates for School Committee or City Council. For the School Committee at-large, a Preliminary would be triggered with seven candidates. For Council at-large, a Preliminary would be triggered with 11 candidates.
A major change this election cycle will be the change to ward-only voting for the ward seats on School Committee and Council. The Home Rule Petition passed by the Council earlier this year passed the Senate on Monday, May 10, but still has to go through part of the process, including getting Gov. Charlie Baker’s signature. However, even if that doesn’t happen by May 17, there is language in the Petition that would still allow the measure to apply to the 2021 Municipal Election.
Previously, under the City Charter, ward seats were voted citywide, but that had been challenged by Lawyers for Civil Right Boston as a potential of the federal Voting Rights Act. That group believed the measure diluted the voting power of people of color and low-income residents and presented a barrier for them to be elected. After a great deal of discourse, the Council finally moved on the matter this year, and this election will be the first where ward seats are only voted by the ward voters, Cornelio said.
“We are going to be changing the voting process with the new system,” he said. “It hasn’t passed the Legislature, but it will soon…It will be ward-only voting in the ward races for Council and School Committee.”
The signature requirements to get on the ballot will also change with that Petition. Ward races will require 125 signatures of registered voters only in that ward, and 250 signatures for at-large candidates. Mayoral candidates have to get 500 signatures, and a long-standing requirement already in place is that at least 25 signatures have to come from each ward.
The last day to turn in Nomination Papers with signaures is July 23, with Papers having to be cerified by the Clerk on Aug. 6.
Meanwhile, Cornelio said he is hoping that the City does find and hire an Election Commissioner before the process gets started. Though he is the Chair of the Commission and ran the Presidential Election last year, he said it’s not really part of the Clerk’s job and a job he would like to relinquish.
“I’m really hoping the mayor hires a director,” he said. “I’m a member of the Board. I want to help set policy. I’m not really wanting to run elections. It just got handed to me last year when the director left.”
A final elections discussion is what to do about polling places, as there was major consolidation last year of the polling places due to COVID restrictions. Though the consolidation did work pretty well last year, Cornelio said the discussion is leaning towards returning to the old 10 precincts that have existed.
“We just really don’t want to confuse the voters,” he said.