Hoping to boost voter turnout in the largest city in western Massachusetts, an election notification law has been adopted.
The Springfield City Council voted 10-0 to override the veto of Mayor Domenic Sarno and put an ordinance on the books that requires City Hall to take specific steps to publicize dates and polling places with a goal of getting more people to vote in elections for local offices including mayor, city council and school committee.
"I commend my colleagues for initiating this ordinance and I think it will be something the citizens of Springfield will be proud of," said City Council President Justin Hurst. He described the requirements of the ordinance as a “no-brainer.”
" We all know we have terrible voter turnout in the city of Springfield, so whatever we can do to increase awareness in our municipal elections we should do it," Hurst added.
The city’s Election Office will be required to mail postcards to each household in the city 20 days prior to a municipal election. Printed on the cards will be the date of the election, the offices to be filled, and the location of the polling place for that household.
Also, on Election Day additional signs will be put up near polling places that read “Vote Today.”
Turnout for the municipal election for City Council and School Committee in Springfield two years ago was less than 10 percent. It was 15 percent in 2015 when the mayor’s office was on the ballot.
For the statewide election in 2018, 34 percent of Springfield’s registered voters went to the polls.
The notification requirement will apply only to municipal elections.
In a statement announcing the veto last month, Sarno, who is running for reelection this year, said the ordinance was a step toward publicly-financed political campaigns.
City Councilor Jesse Lederman, the sponsor of the ordinance, said it specifically forbids identifying any candidate by name on the postcard notice.
"It is not a public financing of campaigns," said Lederman. " The idea we are going to spend $176,000 to run an election and not tell anybody when it is does not make any sense."
City Councilor E. Henry Twiggs said he was “dumbfounded” by the mayor’s veto. City Councilor Orlando Ramos said there was “no factual reason for the veto.”
"It is a common sence piece of legislation," added Ramos. "We're talking about increasing voter turnout in the city of Springfield for a very minimal cost."
Springfield Election Commissioner Gladys Olyola-Lopez estimated it would cost $26,000 to fulfill the notification requirements for this year’s preliminary election in September and the final election in November.
She said her office has just $5,000 budgeted for voter outreach.