A voter’s guide to the Boston preliminary elections Tuesday

Everything you need to know, from polling hours and location to the historic cast of candidates on the ballot.

Clockwise from top left: Acting Mayor Kim Janey, Boston's former economic development chief John Barros, and City Councilors Michelle Wu, Annissa Essaibi George, and Andrea Campbell are all running for mayor of Boston. Boston Globe file photos / Illustration by Michael Begay, Boston.com

Boston residents are slated to narrow the field of candidates in the city’s groundbreaking 2021 mayor’s race Tuesday.

Nearly a year to the day since the first mayoral hopeful announced their candidacy, the city’s preliminary election will decide which two candidates advance to the Nov. 2 general election.

And not only that, voters will also winnow the 17-person field for Boston’s four at-large City Council to eight candidates and set up the head-to-head finales for several district city council seats.

Here’s a guide to voting Tuesday:

When are voting hours?

Polling locations are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

And remember: if you’re in line at 8 p.m. when polls close, the law requires that you will still be allowed to vote.

Where do I vote?

If you’re a Boston resident, you can look up your polling location by simply entering your address online here.


You can also view the full list of polling places for each and every one of the 255 precincts in Boston here.

The vast majority of precints’ polling locations are in the same place as last election, though there are nine that have new locations this year:

East Boston: Ward 1, Precinct 14: Overlook Terrace 40 Vallar Rd, East Boston

Fenway: Ward 4 Precinct 5: Symphony Plaza East, 334 Massachusetts Ave., Boston

Fenway: Ward 4 Precinct 8: Symphony Plaza West, 333 Massachusetts Ave., Boston

Roxbury: Ward 9 Precinct 5: Marcus Garvey Gardens, 44 John Eliot Square, Roxbury

Dorchester: Ward 13 Precincts 7 and 8: Catherine Clark Apartments, 915 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester

Dorchester: Ward 16, Precinct 2: Richard J. Murphy School, Worrell St. Dorchester


Dorchester: Ward 16, Precinct 8 and Precinct 9: Adams Street Branch Library, 690 Adams St. Dorchester

What if I got a mail-in ballot?

If you requested a mail-in ballot and haven’t sent it back yet, it’s too late to do so now.

However, you can still drop it off at one of the city’s 20 ballot drop boxes, which are available seven days a week up until 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

City officials have published a map and a list of the 20 dropbox locations.

You can also opt to simply vote in person if you haven’t sent back your mail-in ballot or are worried about it getting there in time (you can track the status of your ballot to see if it’s been received online, too).


Those who bring a vote-by-mail ballot to their polling location will be directed to cast their vote in person, and a poll worker will help them discard their mail-in ballot person when they cast an in-person vote.

Can I vote if I haven’t registered yet?

Unfortunately, no. The voter registration deadline in Massachusetts was last month (you can check your registration status online).

However, you still have plenty of time (until Oct. 13) to register ahead of the decisive Nov. 2 general election.

Also, if you moved within Boston since the last election but haven’t updated your voter registration address, you can still vote — but you have to do it at your old polling place (and then you should update your information so that you can vote in the right precinct in future elections).


However, if you moved from another municipality (or moved out of Boston) and haven’t updated your registration status, you’re not allowed to vote in the city.

Who am I voting for?

The election Tuesday is a nonpartisan preliminary — meaning that, unlike a primary, anyone can vote in them, regardless of their party enrollment.

There’s of course the headliner mayoral race, which features five major candidates:

All five candidates recently met with Boston.com for wide-ranging hourlong interviews about their platform and vision for Boston, from housing to police reform to education (as well as their favorite Dunkin’ order). They also squared off in two back-to-back debates last week and have participated in dozens of candidate forums.


Recent polls show Wu leading the pack, with Campbell, Essaibi George, and Janey all in a virtual tie for the crucial second-place spot.


Barros, meanwhile, has consistently polled in single digits.

The mayoral race also means that the Boston City Council will see historic turnover this year, with four spots being vacated by mayoral candidates and an additional city councilor retiring.

There are 17 candidates on the ballot, including incumbent Councilors Michael Flaherty and Julia Mejia, vying for the body’s four at-large seats. Nearly all of them recently completed Boston.com Q&A’s on why they’re running and their priorities if elected (and, yes, also their Dunkin’ orders).

There are also open City Council races for Campbell’s District 4 seat and Janey’s District 7 seat. Read the Bay State Banner and the Dorchester Reporter for additional coverage of those respective races.

Will there be COVID-19 precautions at my polling location?



In addition to Boston’s indoor mask mandate, the city’s Election Department is equipping poll workers with masks, face shields, gloves, disinfectant wipes, disinfectant spray, and hand sanitizer. Officials say that frequently touched surfaces will be cleaned every three to four hours.

Voters waiting in line will also be instructed to stand six feet away from others and wear a face covering. Masks will be provided to voters who may not have one and everyone will be encouraged to sanitize their hands prior to voting (they’ll also be instructed to dry their hands before casting their vote in order to avoid wet ballots from damaging voting machines, officials said).

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