Fenway first: Ballpark becomes voting venue

MLB

BOSTON — Bostonians who lined up at the nation’s oldest ballpark on Saturday were far more focused on the ballot box than the batter’s box.

Hundreds of people cast their votes at Fenway Park, which city officials are using as an alternative to indoor venues during the pandemic. Voter Rob Cohen said he’s a 3-minute walk from his nearest polling location but he chose to take a 20-minute bus ride and then stand in line 45 minutes to cast his vote at the storied ballpark.

“It was two things I like a lot — democracy and baseball,” the die-hard Red Sox fan said after his first and only visit to the park this year.

Fenway Park was one of 10 locations across Boston where residents could cast their votes on Saturday, when early voting began across the state. Early voting in the state will run through Oct. 30, but Fenway Park is being used for only this weekend as an early voting location. The ballpark provided a unique experience compared to the other voting venues across Massachusetts.

“This is the first time we’ve ever done early voting or opened up Fenway Park for any kind of voting in the city of Boston, so we’re really excited to be partners with the city on this,” said Red Sox spokeswoman Zineb Curran.

With their 60-game season over, the players are long gone. Residents weren’t allowed in the stands then, nor were they allowed in the stands on Saturday. Instead, a crowd of upbeat voters formed a line that began on one side of the park and snaked toward the other side.

Voters got a glimpse of the field after filling out their ballots in the concourse and exiting on Lansdowne Street. The ballpark provided a safer voting venue during the pandemic because it’s both outdoors and covered, providing protection from the elements while also having plenty of ventilation. Despite providing a voting venue, the Red Sox organization stuck to baseball and stayed out of politics.

“We just want people to exercise their right to cast their ballot,” Curran said. Voters were encouraged to wear masks, and masks were provided to those who needed them. But no one was turned away since the goal was to provide access to anyone who wanted to cast a vote.

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