Casting a Ballot: Candidates, voters navigate one strange election season as Sept. 1 Primary approaches

Thousands of mail-in votes have been requested and hundreds have been cast in-person already for the Sept. 1 Primary Election as mail-in and in-person voting options have brought excitement to campaigns for U.S. Senate and State Representative in Chelsea and surrounding communities.

With COVID-19 changing everything, and radically shifting how candidates campaign, one of the keys to the election this year is focusing on mail-in ballots and creating some excitement for in-person voting and Election Day in-person voting as well.

No one has ever had to do it before, but candidates are adapting and changing weekly. This week marked a major uptick in the energy of the two centerpiece campaigns – one featuring U.S. Sen. Ed Markey vs. Congressman Joe Kennedy III for U.S. Senator; and the other featuring State Rep. Dan Ryan vs. Chelsea Councillor Damali Vidot for state representative. In the last seven days, all four have held or attended in-person events in and around Charlestown and Chelsea.

Chelsea City Clerk Jeannette Cintron White said as of Tuesday, her office had a total of 2,920 Early Voting requests, of those, there were 155 people who voted Early, in-person at Chelsea City Hall. Early voting in Chelsea City Hall continues through Friday, and mail-in ballots can be turned in to the City Hall drop box as late as 8 p.m. on Election Day, Sept. 1.

For the high-profile state representative race it spans both sides of the Mystic/Tobin Bridge, so Charlestown figures prominently as well. 

The City of Boston reported on Tuesday there had been 3,259 mail-in and absentee ballots requested for Ward 2, which is Charlestown. That is a number that has grown by about 1,000 since last week. That was combined with a lively early, in-person voting day at the Harvard Kent School on Tuesday in Charlestown. There lines were out the door for almost all of the afternoon and evening as in-person voting was much more brisk that observers, and candidates, expected.

Neither Boston nor Chelsea had a tally of how many mail-in ballots had been returned to their Election offices.

Both candidates appeared at early voting outside the Harvard Kent on Tuesday with energy and having their campaigns in full swing. More importantly, both have been very present in Chelsea for the past month or more – whether at sign holding events, backyard parties or Zoom meetings.

Meanwhile, another main driver of this Primary Election is the U.S. Senate race between Kennedy and Markey – a race many say is a dead heat right now.

Last Thursday, Kennedy hit Chelsea in the morning to visit Golden Cannoli while he was on his 24-hour, 20-stop campaign tour of the entire state. He appeared at the cannoli plant to visit with the owners and workers as they continued on through the pandemic. Meanwhile, he has garnered quite a bit of support locally from Council President Roy Avellaneda and Councillor Judith Garcia.

“There’s a Washington that’s disconnected,” he said afterward. “I believe a U.S. Senator can and should do something for the people. You can’t help the people by legislating from afar even with the best intentions. You have to have a ground game. You have to be with the people on the ground. You have to understand what people are facing in your communities to fight for your communities. From day one, our campaign and team has focused on earning the support of local officials particularly in communities that often get ignored.”

On last week’s 24-hour campaign tour, Kennedy said they left Boston at 3 a.m. and returned the next day at 6:45 a.m. after putting more than 600 miles on their vehicle.

Hitting the trail in his own bus this week, Markey rolled into Chelsea on Monday for a campaign stop on the ‘Leads & Delivers’ tour. Markey has visited Chelsea several times, and enjoys a great deal of support from organizations and City officials as well.

Markey has major support in Chelsea from State Sen. Sal DiDomenico, who has appeared with him at several campaign stops.

On Monday, supporters called on voters to re-elect Markey, as he has always delivered and takes his job personally when it comes to being able to help. It was also stressed that he had a common experience with the voters – having worked his way through college in a working-class Malden family.

“You had to work, you had to study, and you had to try hard to maximize your God-given abilities,” he said. “When I worked the midnight to 8 a.m. shift at Purity Supreme in Somerville, I had to do it. You didn’t have a choice.”

Early voting continues this week at Chelsea City Hall, but ends on Friday.

The polls will open as usual on Sept. 1 for the State Primary Election as well.

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