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The Boston mayoral race: What you need to know about voting this fall

Read up on everything you need to know before heading to the voting booth this fall.
Read up on everything you need to know before heading to the voting booth this fall.Suzanne Kreiter

The lawn signs are up, the #bospoli Twitter hashtag is buzzing, and even campaign merch has entered the field. With less than two months to go before Boston’s historic mayoral election, here’s everything you need to know about how to cast your vote.

When is the election?

Bostonians can cast their vote during the preliminary municipal election on Sept. 14, which will narrow the mayoral candidate pool to the two who will be listed on the general ballot.

The general election for mayor will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.

For both the preliminary and general election, all polling locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and voters in line at 8 p.m. must be allowed to vote.


When is the deadline to register to vote?

The deadline to register to vote in the preliminary election is Aug. 25 at 8 p.m.

The deadline to register to vote in the general municipal election is Oct. 13 at 8 p.m.

Who is running?

These major candidates will be on the ballot for the preliminary election on Sept. 14.

John Barros: The former Boston chief of economic development under Martin J. Walsh is focusing his campaign on issues such as climate change, affordable housing, support for schools, and equity and inclusion.

Andrea Campbell: The Boston city councilor representing the Mattapan district since 2015 says she will focus on breaking generational cycles of poverty and injustice.

Annissa Essaibi George: The Dorchester native and Boston city councilor is hoping to aid the city’s “eventual rebirth” from the COVID-19 crisis.

Kim Janey: The acting mayor assumed office after former mayor Martin J. Walsh left to head the US Labor Department and has since campaigned for policing reform and economic assistance for vulnerable communities.

Michelle Wu: The first woman of color to serve as Boston’s city council president, Wu has been serving on the Council since 2013, and is campaigning on issues around affordable housing, public transit reforms, and the opioid crisis.


Two other candidates, Robert Cappucci and Richard Spagnuolo, will also be on the ballot.

Jon Santiago dropped out of the race earlier in July.

Why is this race historic?

Since the position of mayor was created nearly 200 years ago, the city of Boston has had only white males presiding over City Hall, until Janey took over the post from Walsh this spring. Janey became Boston’s first Black and first woman mayor.

None of the major candidates in this year’s race are white men, meaning Boston is on track to make history by electing, for the first time, a non-white person — and perhaps even a woman — as mayor.

A poll conducted by the Boston Globe and the Suffolk University Political Research Center shows that Bostonians’ top three choices for mayor are all women of color, though 21.6 percent of voters were still undecided on a first choice candidate.

How and where can I vote?

Boston voters can cast their ballot in person at their assigned polling location. Polling locations are designated by residential address.

When you check in, you will be asked for your name and address. Identification may be required if you are an inactive voter, you are casting a provisional or challenged ballot, or the poll worker has “a reasonable suspicion that leads them to request identification.” Acceptable forms of identification include a driver’s license, state-issued ID card, recent utility bill, rent receipt, lease, a copy of a voter registration affidavit, or any other printed identification which contains the voter’s name and address.


Can I vote by mail?

Voters can cast ballots by mail under a few circumstances, including disabilities or being out of town.

You must fill out an application and mail it to the Boston Election Department. After receiving and filling out the ballot, send it back to the address on the envelope or drop it off at an official drop off location at Boston City Hall before 8 p.m. on election day.

The mail-in option could open up to other voters, too. Lawmakers approved an extension of COVID-era voting provisions until Dec. 15, 2021, allowing cities like Boston to let people vote by mail without needing any excuse. The provisions, included in a supplemental budget bill, still require Governor Charlie Baker’s signature.

What else will be on the ballot?

Aside from the mayoral race, Bostonians will also vote to elect their district councilor and four at-large councilors who serve city-wide.

On the Sept. 14 preliminary election ballot, voters across the city will make four choices from a lengthy list of 17 at-large city councilor candidates, which will be narrowed down to the top eight names on the Nov. 2 ballot.

There will be no preliminary election voting for the council seats for Districts 1, 2, 3, 5, and 8, as there are already only one or two candidates running. Voters in Districts 4, 6, 7, and 9, however, will cast ballots on Sept. 14 to narrow the field to two candidates on Nov. 2.


What issues are driving voters in this election?

Affordable housing, racial injustice, and education are the three leading issues driving voters in the mayoral race, according to a poll conducted by the Boston Globe and the Suffolk University Political Research Center.

As rent prices continue to climb and housing shortages are continuously reported, housing lingers on the minds of many voters who hope the next mayor will propose affordable options.

After a year of racial reckoning and national protests over the deaths of Black men at the hands of police, poll respondents hoped to see changes at the local level.

Communities also have strong feelings about Boston’s public schools, as evidenced by the leadup and the response to the school committee’s decision to overhaul the admissions process to the city’s exam schools in efforts to increase the diversity of students.

What issues are you most concerned about in this mayoral election? Tell us in the form below:

Kate Lusignan can be reached at kate.lusignan@globe.com.