YOUR VOICE MATTERS

By: Carol Beggy

Voting is the best way to make our voices heard and drive the country forward, especially when so many many hot issues face voters in the upcoming presidential election

By: Carol Beggy

Who to vote for, who will get elected, what direction will our country go in the future? We are in the final weeks of the quadrennial election season and like so much else in 2020, the November 3 election seems to have arrived with a force and have more importance than any point in the past. If you judge by the discussions, the online chatter, the signs for candidates and causes that are plastered around the region, then that is true. The reality, however, is that elections and voting always matter. Even the small, municipal level races in non-presidential years affect how you live your life and the services you receive. The right to vote, and the system that free and open elections is how we choose our leaders, is written into the US Constitution. “Our political leaders will know our priorities only if we tell them, again and again, and if those priorities begin to show up in the polls,” wrote Peggy Noonan, who served as speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan and is a columnist for The Wall Street Journal. More than 2,200 years ago, the philosopher Plato was a bit more blunt: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

“Our political leaders will know our priorities only if we tell them, again and again.”

Peggy Noonan, presidential speechwriter

Here in Massachusetts, voters have always liked to have their say, particularly in the presidential elections. For the last three such elections, state-wide voter turnout has averaged more than 75 percent. For those keeping track, Massachusetts hasn’t always been a Blue state. This state voted solidly Repub-lican through the 1920s. In the 1930s and ’40s Boston’s daily newspapers were filled with sto-ries of voters (men and women dressed for work) waiting in long lines to “exercise their franchise” at polling places around the city. Until recent elections, voters could only cast their ballot  by showing up at the polls on election day. For this presiden-tial election, voters have many more options. All of Boston’s 256 polling locations will be open on November 3 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., including the four locations for residents of the North End. (They are Nazzaro Community Center, 30 North Bennett Street; Christopher Columbus Apartments, 145 Commercial Street; Knights of Columbus hall, 41 North Margin Street; and City Hall, for residents of Harbor Towers and Rowes Wharf.) For the 2016 presidential elec-tion, the state of Massachusetts allowed “early voting,” which involves going to a polling site and casting your ballot in-person. Early voting for the November 3 election starts on October 17 and runs through October 30. Also, because of Covid-19 concerns, the state Legislature expanded mail-in voting for this election cycle. You can find out more, in-cluding how to track your ballot to make sure that it is received and counted, at the Secretary of State’s election webpage https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleidx.htm For the presidential election on Tuesday, November 3, 2020, when the polls close at 8 p.m. and the ballots are being counted, voters will not only have deter-mined who will lead our country for the next four years, but in Massachusetts voters will say who represents them in the state Legislature.

“The Massachusetts Legislature passed critical policies this session to ensure ballot access would not be obstructed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Vote by mail or vote early. Your vote matters,” said state Senator Joe Bon-core, who represents the North End. “The United States is now facing the convergence of so many critical movements. We cannot let this moment pass without having our voices heard.” In Massachusetts, all 160 seats in the state’s House of Representatives and the 40 seats in the state’s Senate are on the November ballot. These are the two halves of the Massachusetts Great and General Court, which passes laws and approves the Governor’s budget and all state expenditures. There is an added importance to this year’s state elections. For it is only the twelfth time in the country’s history that a presidential election falls in a Census year. Your registration and vote matter just that much more as the Legislature that is seated in January will redraw legislative districts based on the 2020 Census findings. Other races on the November 3 ballot are one of the state’s two seats in the US Senate, all nine of the seats in the US Congress, and two ballot questions. If it seems like we vote a lot in Massachusetts, that’s because we do, with spring elections in some communities and annual fall elections in many cities. Governor Charlie Baker’s term runs through 2022 and Bos-ton Mayor Marty Walsh’s term runs through 2021. And, if you think that your vote, particularly in Boston, doesn’t matter, then let’s look at the 2019 race for Boston City Council’s four at large seats. When the voting was tallied and then the ballots were recounted, Julia Meija beat Alexandra Nicole St. Guillen by one vote out of more than 67,000 ballots cast. One vote.

Suffolk University engages young voters by educating through social media. Hear a Suffolk Vote scholar’s insight into the importance of the student vote

By: Catherine Pergolis

Photo credit by Rocco Capano

When trying to find the best way to encourage students at Suffolk University to vote, the answer was simple: social media engagement. By placing voting information directly in front of students as they partake in their daily social media scroll, it is easy to encourage students to register to vote and be politically active within their community. “In the 2016 general election, 83 percent of Suffolk students were registered to vote and 67 percent of those students actually voted,” explained Elizabeth Finn, Suffolk Votes Scholar. Finn said that Suffolk Votes provides information about how to vote in their home state, as well as registering to vote for the upcoming presidential election, all on social media. The Covid-19 pandemic has enabled Suffolk Votes Ambassadors to get creative and host events such as voter registration and presidential debate watch parties via Zoom. According to an article from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, 15 million people have turned 18 since the 2016 presidential election.  The laws that are passed and the candidates who are elected now will affect the future for the next generation of Americans who are currently students. Finn and the other Suffolk Votes Ambassadors are working towards one unified goal: encouraging students to make their voices heard. “Throughout history people have been denied the right to vote. You’re voting for people who are unable to; voting is a right but it is also a privilege,” said Finn. Elections affect everyone and choices we make now will continue to affect us into adulthood; caring now and making your voice heard is crucial to the state of our country now and for future generations.

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