For Some Boston Residents, Voting In Person Offered A Sense Of Normalcy

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Elections inspector Danita Underwood offers voters hand sanitizer on their way into vote at the Shelburne Community Center in Roxbury. (Shannon Dooling/WBUR)
Elections inspector Danita Underwood offers voters hand sanitizer on their way into vote at the Shelburne Community Center in Roxbury. (Shannon Dooling/WBUR)

There was no line at the Edwards Middle School in Charlestown when 83-year-old Anne Sullivan arrived to vote Tuesday morning.

Sullivan, who said she was born and raised in Charlestown, knew voting would be different this year. But it was still important for her to vote in-person.

"It just makes it more personal. More meaningful, I think," she said. "I enjoy the process."

At one point, a small line of three or four people formed next to a poster showing you how to put on your mask and reminding voters about social distancing. Meanwhile, a volunteer sprayed disinfectant on polling booths after each use.

Brian Bartlett lives near the school and said he noticed the thinner-than-normal crowd so he brought his two young sons with him, each wearing Mickey Mouse protective masks. Gesturing toward his boys, Bartlett said including them in the process was a big reason for choosing to vote in person this year.

"I want them to see that this is a part of it. They're starting school this week, too, so we're going to be in buildings right here in the same neighborhoods. So, kind of the reminders about masks and distancing and all that stuff was important for us," Bartlett said.

Elections inspector Danita Underwood wore two protective face masks as she greeted voters outside of the Shelburne Community Center in Roxbury. She offered each person a squirt of hand sanitizer before they went inside.

Underwood said she's a regular volunteer and jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the election again this year.

"But you want to protect yourself and the people that's going in there," she said. "So, that's why I'm trying to make sure everybody gets sanitized before they go in. And if they want to sanitize when they come out too, I'll spray again."

Roxbury resident Lakia Spence showed up to vote in person mostly because she could.

Spence understands why many people with pre-exiting health conditions may prefer another option, but being physically present at the polls for her meant feeling like she's a part of the democratic process.

"Everybody's situation is different," she said. "Like I said, I'm able-bodied, I'm able to come out and do it, I'm going to do my part. I'm going to participate in my community so that way we can make some changes that are necessary."

For her sister, Leah Spence, voting in-person was a way to connect to the community at a time when connections have been hard to come by.

"We have relationships with the people who work here," she said, "so when we come here and we see you know our seniors, our community leaders, it's a great thing because we haven't had that in over six months."

Spence said she looks forward to voting — and connecting — again in November.

This segment aired on September 2, 2020.


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Shannon Dooling Investigative Reporter
Shannon Dooling was an investigative reporter at WBUR, focused on stories about immigration and criminal justice.



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