How crowded is the election field in Boston this fall? So crowded that election officials are worried that mobs of competing poll checkers inside polling places will leave no room for voters. The field is so crowded that signs for the 50 candidates running for mayor and City Council may blot out sunlight at some polling places. Dozens of canvassers are expected to line sidewalks outside, forcing voters to run a gantlet of brochures and slogans to get to the ballot box. To fight democratic gridlock, the city wants to make sure traffic keeps moving on election day. The most pressing issue will be poll checkers: campaign workers stationed inside voting places who check off names and play a crucial role in get-out-the-vote operations. Campaigns are allowed to station observers inside voting stations, but some of Boston’s polling places are in cramped spaces in churches and senior centers. There simply may not be room for all the poll checkers, forcing campaigns to share.
“We’re concerned about how many bodies we can fit in one space,” said Geraldine Cuddyer, chairwoman of the Board of Election Commissioners. “We want to make sure that on Election Day we are not spending the day refereeing.”
‘We’re concerned about how many bodies we can fit in one space.’ — GERALDINE CUDDYER, Board of Election Commissioners chairwoman
Election officials staff each polling place with at least seven people, but some precincts have more. Staff includes a police officer, language translators, election inspectors, and a warden, who is in charge. The addition of a dozen campaign poll checkers might be too much. “Some of these [polling] places are tiny,” Cuddyer said.
Election officials have tried to identify tight spots long before the Sept. 24 preliminary election. A letter sent at the beginning of the month asked each candidate to provide a list by Friday of the top 35 precincts in which they want to station poll checkers. The idea was to pinpoint the most popular polling places in advance and determine whether there will be enough space to accommodate all campaigns.