“Paying attention” to Boston Elections too early? Shame on you!

By | September 4, 2007

I previously asked why the ballot information for the upcoming Boston city elections hasn’t been posted, and why there are signs up for a September 11 election in Allson about which there’s no information on the Boston Election department’s Web site.

I sent these questions to the Boston Elections department. Here is how they responded, and what I sent back to them.

First, on the question about the September 11 election:

Hello Jonathan: September 11 is the Special State Election for the Middlesex, Suffolk, and Essex Senate District. This is the Senate seat that became vacant when Jarrett Barrios resigned. It involves 6 precincts in Allston-Brighton. Ward 21 precincts 4,6, 7 and Ward 22
precincts 1, 2, 5. Our website is in the process of being updated. We have found that most people are not paying attention until after Labor Day.

Geraldine M. Cuddyer
Chair, Board of Commissioners,
Boston Election Department

On the question about the missing ballot information:

There is no City-wide at-large preliminary election in September. All press releases are going out this week. As I mentioned if my previous response, past experience tells us that voters don’t traditionally pay attention until after Labor Day, with vacations and preparations for back-to-school going on. You will see lots of information from this Department being posted beginning this week. We have also been working with our MIS department over the last several weeks to make our website more user-friendly. I hope you will seen the results of these efforts in the next few weeks, as well. Thanks you for your insights. (You might also want to take a look at today’s Boston Globe: you will find the comments from the candidates for the 5th Congressional District seat, who are competing in a Primary today, will echo my comments re: the lack of attention to campaigns during the summer months)

Geraldine M. Cuddyer
Chair, Board of Commissioners,
Boston Election Department

I found these responses underwhelming, to say the least. Here is the rather piqued letter which I sent in response:

Ms. Cuddyer,

I fail to see how “We have found that most people are not paying attention until after Labor Day” is a legitimate explanation for why your department has access to extremely important election-related information that is several months old and yet has not yet been published on your Web site.

I find it mind-boggling that you would attempt to excuse the fact that there is an important Special State Election A WEEK FROM NOW about which there is still no information on your Web site.

While your “after Labor Day” excuse might at first glance seem reasonable when the election is in November, it is simply absurd when you’re talking about an election taking place a week after the holiday.

I don’t see how you can possibly have a clue about how many people are “paying attention” to what’s going on with elections. You’re wrong about me. You’re wrong about all the people who attended the forum on July 23 for the candidates to replace Jerry McDermott. You’re wrong about all the people who have been blogging about the fact that the preliminary election to eliminate a single at-large City Council candidate was canceled and yet nobody (including the candidates!) was notified in a timely fashion.

You should not be catering to the people who choose to remain ignorant; you should be catering to the people who choose to educate themselves and be involved.

It is the job of your department to disseminate information and make it easier for people to have access to it when they want and need it, not to decide for them when they need it.

It seems to me that what’s really going on here is that you know full well that your department is dropping the ball on keeping your Web site up-to-date, and yet you’d rather make excuses for why that’s OK then admit that there’s a problem and figure out how to fix it. I am EXTREMELY INTOLERANT of people who make excuses for why they aren’t doing their jobs, hence the tone of this letter.

Simply put, if your department has information that you’re supposed to publicize, and a single person goes to your Web site to find it and it’s not available there, then you’ve not done your job. There is NO LEGITIMATE REASON for your failure to publish public information as soon as you have it.

This is not the level of service for which I’m paying thousands of dollars in property and excise taxes every year.

Jonathan Kamens

I copied my response to the Mayor and to the state’s Elections Department (since it relates to a State election).

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4 thoughts on ““Paying attention” to Boston Elections too early? Shame on you!

  1. jik Post author

    September 4, 2007 was the state primary for the election to fill the vacancy in the 5th Congressional District caused by the resignation of U.S. Representative Martin T. Meehan. This is the primary that pitted Tsongas against Donoghue (plus a few other less well-known candidates) for the Democrats and Ogonowski against Tierney for the Republicans. Tsongas and Ogonowski came out ahead and will face off against each other at the special election on October 16.

    I have to withdraw my previous complaint about this particular election. Since no part of Boston is part of the 5th Congressional District, there was no reason for Boston’s Elections Department to be publicizing the September 4 primary.

    In other news, the Boston Elections Department finally posted, on September 4, a press release outlining all of the elections taking place between September 11 and November 6. The press release lists the City Council candidates for Districts 7 and 9, but does not list the candidates for any of the other contests (including the City Council At-Large race), nor are the candidates for those other contests listed anywhere else on the Elections Department’s Web site.

    Since it’s well past the deadline for getting one’s name on the ballot, all of the candidates for all of the elections are known to the Elections Department, so I continue to be amazed by the fact that the lists of candidates haven’t been posted by the Elections Department.

  2. jik Post author

    It’s even worse than I thought. There isn’t just an election on September 11. There was an election today which was never announced in any way on the Boston Elections Division’s Web site.

    Gotta love it.

  3. JB

    I’ve had exactly your experience with regard to this upcoming election. Thank you for writing to them about it!


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