Boston Must Provide More Drop-Boxes for the Election

Coronavirus, Racial Justice, Voting Rights

Communities of Color Are Particularly At Risk of Disenfranchisement 

In an open letter issued to Mayor Marty Walsh and Boston’s Election Department,  Lawyers for Civil Rights is urging the City of Boston to provide additional secure municipal drop-boxes in advance of the November election. Our experience with the September primary—during which Boston experienced near-record voter turnout—strongly suggests that having only one drop box location in Boston on Election Day harms the right to vote, particularly for voters of color.  Adding more municipal drop boxes now will expand voting access and help ensure that the City does not run afoul of the federal Voting Rights Act.    

Of particular concern is the disproportionate impact that the lack of drop boxes has on voters of color. City Hall—the one drop box location in Boston on the day of the September primary—is relatively distant from the neighborhoods in the City that have the greatest number of residents of color.  In addition, communities of color have borne the brunt of the current pandemic, with a disproportionate number of infections and deaths, and multiple collateral consequences such as difficulty accessing employment and childcare. All of this increases the likelihood that placing the one municipal drop box at a faraway location disproportionately disenfranchises voters of color.  

In our letter, we outline the City’s potential liability under the Voting Rights Act if it does not commit to adding more drop boxes before November. We urge the City to immediately devise a plan for the placement of at least 20-25 additional drop boxes throughout the City on Election Day, with particular attention paid to ensuring that the drop boxes are accessible to Boston’s communities of color.  

The letter is available here: