Springfield, Mass., City Council Advances Local Election Notice Ordinance

Jun 4, 2019

City councilors in Springfield, Massachusetts, took a first step Monday toward addressing low voter turnout in local elections. 

They gave initial approval to a city-sponsored get-out-the-vote effort.

More than 110,000 people were registered to vote in Springfield as of last year.

But as City Councilor Jesse Lederman pointed out, not many are showing up at the polls for local elections.

“Voter turnout in our municipal elections has dipped below 10 percent regularly,” Lederman said. “I think we all agree that our city and our neighborhoods do better when more people are at the table voicing their opinions, and having their interests represented.”

That's why Lederman is proposing an ordinance to require city officials to mail postcards, and make phone calls to all registered voters to remind them of the election date.

Springfield's Election Commission estimates the cost at about $13,000 per election, or $26,000 each local election cycle that includes a preliminary and general election.

Councilor Kenneth Shea wondered aloud if the ordinance would make much of a difference.

“When we see that voter turnout is below 10 percent, I can’t imagine that us spending this $26,000 is going to go from 10 percent up to 90 percent,” Shea said.

Shea said between stories from local news outlets, and candidate signs posted around the city, there’s plenty of notice of local elections.

The council voted to move the proposal to committee.