In Bid To Boost Voter Turnout, Springfield Will Try Robocalls

Oct 10, 2017

Springfield Election Commissioner Gladys Oyola speaks at a news conference with City Councilor Ken Shea where they announced efforts to increase voter turnout for the Nov. 7 election.
Credit WAMC

Following a record low voter turnout for last month’s primary, the city of Springfield is taking steps to remind people to vote on November 7th. 

Springfield Election Commissioner Gladys Oyola said a citywide robocall will be made the day before the election with a message she will record in both English and Spanish to remind people of the election date, polling times, and provide a phone number for people to call to find their polling place.

" It is a pretty simple and effective way to reach the most people possible," said Oyola.

The calls will be made using the city’s Connect-CTY system, an automated call center used to send out emergency alerts and notifications about community meetings.   The calls can go to both landlines and cellphones.

Oyola said the idea to place the robocalls in an effort to make people more aware of the Nov. 7th election came from Springfield City Councilor Ken Shea.

" I hope this effort by the election commissioner and myself will increase the voter turnout for this election and going forward we can explore other ways to try to maximize the event and get more people to turn out," said Shea.

Speaking at a press conference with Oyola in front of City Hall Tuesday, Shea said he was disappointed by the extremely low voter turnout for the September 19th preliminary.

" The problem with a very low turnout is it is dangerous for a society. The lower the turnout, the closer we get to a non-representative form of government and that is not good," Shea said.

The 5.39 percent voter turnout was the lowest ever for any election in Springfield, according to Oyola.   More than 106,000 people are registered to vote in Springfield – the highest number ever. The election for city council and school committee has produced the most candidates in 15 years, according to Oyola.

" It leaves us begging the question what will get people out to vote," said Oyola.

The decline in voter participation is not unique to Springfield. Nationally, voter turnout has declined steadily since the 1960s.

Shea said he’s asked the city’s Department of Public Works to consider using portable electronic message boards to display a reminder about Election Day.  

He also thinks Springfield should revisit the idea of 4-year terms for City Councilors – the same term length as the mayor.

" It did pass here in the city in a nonbinding referendum," Shea said.   " I think any year there is an election for mayor there is a much bigger turnout."

There is no mayoral election in Springfield this year.  Voters will elect five-at large city councilors and eight ward councilors.  Six school committee members will be elected.

Shea is seeking reelection to a fifth two-year term representing Ward 6.  He is being challenged by Bob Collamore.