September 25, 2019
For Crissakes, Boston! Eleven percent!??
What happened to the town that gave the world “Vote early and often for Curley?”
The campaign ditty for James Michael Curley, the Rascal King and former Mayor, Governor and Congressman, was an early 20th century wink-and-a-nod to the ward boss days when there was plenty of motivation to get to the polls.
There were shenanigans, too, no doubt. Later, Bill Bulger would joke that no election result in Southie was certain until the totals came in from St. Augustine’s cemetery.
The late Dapper O’Neil— who used to chauffer Curley around town in his younger days before he became a candidate and city councillor himself— would often brag that they’d have to weigh his votes rather than count ‘em on election night. O’Neil was right about that, until he wasn’t. The ‘Dap’ got put out on his ear by Mike Flaherty in ’99. (Full disclosure: I still happily throw Flaherty one of my four votes for doing us that service 20 years ago.)
But gone are the days when “too many” voters showing up is even a remote concern. To the contrary: Monday brought a new low-water mark for a city that’s supposedly bursting at the seams with new residents.
Serious question: How is a city that can barely muster one-tenth of its registered voters to pick leaders going to govern itself going forward? Probably not very well.
Some will argue that voters who stay home send a message of their own. And that might be true in an election filled with the toxicity that’s set permanently to “firehose” on the national stage.
But it’s really stretching it to find any justification for this one. It seems straight-up lazy. It is lazy.
How vapid and self-absorbed and pampered must a person be to not care about his or her own neighborhood or city enough to make it to a polling station once or twice a year? That’s pretty weak for a city that likes to fancy itself “strong.”
The truth is we increasingly want other people to do the mundane day-to-day tasks of life for us. Want to get dinner, but you ran outta time? There’s an app for that.
Grocery shopping sucks and I want to spend an extra 45 at the gym. There’s an app for that.
Missed the pre-sale for the Post Malone concert? No biggie. Just use that app that lets you buy a ticket ten minutes before the show. Or sell it because you don’t feel like going anymore. Smart people have figured out how you can do that and not, you know, commit fraud.
White Claws running low? No stress. Drizly!
Voting is a pain in the ass, too, right? There’s no parking at the polling station. I have to run a gauntlet of pollworkers. I have to pick up the kids.I don’t want to be late for work.
Also, I’ve been too busy to even know there was an election today. Who even are these people?
Well, guess what? Sorry! There’s no app for democracy.
But maybe there should be. Maybe we should just give up the ghost on this one person-one vote concept. Let’s create an app that lets us hire a substitute voter. It’ll be like Instacart but instead of soy milk and seltzer, we can punch in our slate of council picks and send some gig-economy rando to the polls for us.
The app could let you scroll through your menu of candidates, read their positions on issues and see how many elections they missed since turning 18. We’d at least have semi-informed voters and a better turnout.
And, chances are it’d be like the “good old days” when some boyo on the Curley payroll voted 18 times in 18 different wards of the city. Except this time, it would be perfectly legit to “vote early and often.”
What’s that you say? We may not need to send some Instacarter hurtling across the city to vote for us? We could just have a system where we could vote remotely and securely from wherever we were?
I mean, that sounds kind of crazy.
But you know what’s crazier? 11 percent turnout.
Where do I download?
Bill Forry is editor and publisher of the Dorchester Reporter. Follow him on Twitter @BillForry