Brookline Vote & Run for GOV Program
The Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Relations (ODICR), in collaboration with the Office of the Town Clerk in Brookline, partnered together with the Brookline Housing Authority (BHA), the Council on Aging (COA), the Brookline Food Pantry, the Public Libraries of Brookline, Brookline High School, and the League of Women Voters to launch the Vote & Run for GOV Program to talk to you about elections and civic engagement!
You can also register to vote directly online with forms in multiple languages at https://www.sec.state.ma.us/OVR/.
For the annual town election calendar please visit https://www.brooklinema.gov/DocumentCenter/View/28255/Annual-Town-Election-Calendar-2022?bidId=
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers:
1. Who can register to vote and how old do I need to be?
Anyone over the age of 18 who is a US Citizen can register to vote. You can also pre-register from the age of 16,
2. When do we have elections? What type of elections do we have? Do I need to register for regional, state and federal elections at a time or just once for all of them?
Every year Brookline has an annual Town election in the Spring to elect Town Meeting Members, Select Board Members, and other local officials. State elections occur every 2 years (on the even years) in November, with a primary in September. Every 4 years there is a Presidential election, as well as a Presidential Primary in March. There can also be special elections if someone leaves their seat, or if there is a ballot question.
3. Why is it important for me to vote?
Voting is the best way to make sure your voice is heard, and to impact your community. Elected officials affect every part of your life, from the President setting foreign policy, to the Select Board making sure your garbage is picked up. There are numerous examples of an election being decided by just a handful of votes, so every vote counts, especially yours.
4. What’s the difference between a City and a Town?
There are different forms of municipal government in Massachusetts. They can mostly be divided into Cities and Towns. Brookline is a Town. In a city, you have a Mayor as the Executive Branch, and a City Council as the Legislative Branch. In a Town like Brookline, you have a Select Board with a Town Administrator as the Executive Branch, and a Town Meeting as the Legislative Branch.
5. Who can run for government in Brookline? How can I participate in government in Brookline?
Any registered voter that resides in Brookline can run for any office. To be put on the ballot for a Town-wide position (Select Board, School Committee, Library Trustee, Constable, etc.), you need to gather 50 signatures from Brookline voters. To be put on the ballot for a Town Meeting seat, you need to gather 10 signatures from Brookline voters in your precinct.
6. What are boards, commissions and committees?
Brookline has many boards, commissions, and committees that help advise and run the Town. Membership of the committees are chosen by different groups in Town, most frequently the Select Board. Some boards, commissions, and committees discuss issues and make recommendations to the Select Board, while others can act independently. Boards, commissions, and committees impact every part of Town government, and are a great place to become involved if you do not want to run for office. If you’re interested in joining a board, commission, or committee, you should reach out to the appointing body, or to the committee Chair for information.
7. How old do I have to be to participate in boards, commissions and government meetings in Brookline?
There are no age requirements to serve on most boards, commissions, and committees. There are no age requirements for speaking at any board, commission, or government meeting, including Town Meeting. In fact, there are several examples of students speaking before Town Meeting on issues that are important to them.
8. What is Town Meeting? What are Town Meeting Members? What does a Town Meeting Member do? Who are the Town Meeting Members in Brookline? In which Precinct are they located? Can I contact them?
Town Meeting is the legislative body in Brookline. Town Meeting is made up of 255 Town Meeting members, 15 from each precinct. Town Meeting typically meets twice per year, once in the Spring, and once in fall, to discuss the Budget, changes to the By-laws, resolutions, and other legislation. There are 15 Town Meeting Members in your precinct, and you can find information on contacting them on the Town Website.
9. How old do I have to be to run to be a town meeting member in Brookline? Can anyone apply? How can I apply to be a town meeting member? How can I participate in Town Meeting?
You must be a registered voter in order to run for Town Meeting. Any registered voter can take out nomination papers to be placed on the ballot. Candidates require 10 signatures from registered voters in their precinct in order to be on the ballot. Even if you are not elected to Town Meeting, the proceedings of Town Meeting are open to the public. You can watch Town Meeting on Brookline Interactive Group, and can request to speak on an issue by contacting the Town Moderator.
10.Can 16 or 17 year old residents vote or run for government?
Currently, you must be 18 years old in order to vote in any election in Brookline. There was a vote of Town Meeting in November 2019 that filed a Home Rule petition with the State Legislature. If approved, the Home Rule petition would allow for 16 and 17 year olds to vote in local Brookline elections. However, the Home Rule petition has not been approved by the State Legislature yet. As a result, the current law states that voters must be 18 years of age or older. 16 and 17 year olds are eligible to pre-register to vote, which would mean they are eligible to vote as soon as they turn 18. Currently, one can run for government only if one is eligible to vote and registered, so therefore, once one turns 18.
11.What’s a Precinct? What’s a Majority-Minority Precinct?
Brookline is divided into 17 voting precincts. Each precinct has approximately the same number of residents. All voters in a precinct vote at the same polling location, and vote for the same ballot of elected officials. In Brookline, there are two Majority-Minority precincts, which are precincts where less than 50% of the voters are White, Non-Hispanic.
Further Resources on Civic Engagement:
Video: Brookline Town Elections 2022 (Courtesy of the League of Women Voters in Brookline):
Video: Redistricting of Precincts and Upcoming Elections (Courtesy of the Age-Friendly-Cities Committee and BIG)
Town Meeting and Town Meeting Members list (Excel Sheet to the left)
Civic engagement and increased public participation in Town wide decisions is important to an inclusive and sustainable community. It is important to provide meaningful and accessible opportunities to increase public participation within the Town. In addition to communicating meetings more effectively and making meeting locations more accessible and inclusive, it is imperative to empower the diverse and underrepresented residents of the community to participate civically in Brookline.
Based on findings from Civic Engagement Barrier surveys, personal narratives, and collaborative work done by InclusiveBrookline, recommendations from the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Relations to further cultivate a community of civically engaged people and inclusive decision making groups are provided in the document linked above.