FA Day Alum – and Former Newton City Council Candidate – Madeline Ranalli


Aneesha Aryan, Staff Writer

In a special election for the Newton City Council on March 16, 2021 we elected two Councilors-at-Large for our 24 member council. 

From Ward 1 — John Oliver got 7,812 votes compared to his opponent Madeline Ranalli who got 6,436. From Ward 2 — Tarik Lucas won with 7,503 votes, defeating both Bryan Barash who received 6,346, and David Micley who received 611 votes, according to numbers gathered by the Boston Globe.

The election’s purpose was to elect two people for the open spots in the Council. One, because of the unfortunate passing of Allan L. “Jay” Ciccone Jr., Ward 1 Councilor-at-large; and two, because Jake Auchincloss, who had represented Ward 2, left the city council after being elected a US representative in November. 

According to the Boston Globe, “A total of 14,535 of the city’s 63,152 registered voters — or 23 percent — casted ballots in the special election.”

Local elections everywhere have seen a decline in participation in recent decades, and Newton is no exception. New York City had a drop in 2017 in which they only had 21.7% of registered voters vote in the mayoral election, which is significantly less than the 1953 election where 90% voted, according to Matthew Gross of the Harvard Political Review. This is not just happening in New York but in lots of communities. This may have happened because we have seen less campaign spending and fewer media coverage, which in turn makes it hard for voters to receive and digest information and participate in elections. It’s hard for voters to do their one job: vote. Voters feel like they cannot understand what is going on in elections and decide to skip the process altogether. Lower voter turnout in Newton will result in Newton citizens not getting their priorities addressed and having no say in our city’s issues. These are the issues that are the most direct to us — in other words the issues that we will see the results of every day — will be decided by local leaders. Surprisingly, we are more knowledgeable about federal and state politics than we are our own local politics! However, the president and governor are not the one with jurisdiction over these small but important issues — that power lies in the hands of local leaders and us, who elect them.

Former candidate Madeline “Maddy” Ranalli believes that the residents of Newton have many hurdles in the way of voting, especially during this time of the pandemic. “When you have people out to request a ballot that doesn’t get there on time but they’re not able to come and vote in-person. There are actual barriers that kept people from casting their ballots and I think that’s something we have to think about,” Ranalli said in an interview. “We have so much work to do as a city, as a state, as a country to get more people to vote — get more people to care and to buy in and say this is why local elections matter.”

Maddy has been laying her options out for what she wants to do next after her loss, between returning to school, running again in the next election, and continuing her advocacy with other efforts. “I know that I’m going to dedicate my life to public service,” she continued. “There are so many ways that I want to help and so many issues that I want to advocate on, and I don’t think that passion or that drive is going to stop because I’m on the Council or not. I’m still figuring out at what capacity that is, but I think that I’m not going anywhere. I’m excited to continue to advocate for youth issues in Newton.”

She has a certain sense of pride behind her disappointment. “My gut reaction — obviously I was sad, I’m still sad. It sucks, it stings,” Ranalli shared. “I’m so confident and fulfilled in not just what we did but how we did it. That’s more important than any win margin… I think that confidence in knowing that I did everything the way that I really wanted to is so important and so I don’t regret anything.”

Maddy has, of course, thought of scenarios in which she had won. She has thought about what different actions she could’ve taken to win — but she has kept her head held high. “I’ve been thinking a lot about it, in the past week, of things I would’ve done differently, whatever. But I think ultimately, I am so proud,” she told me. 


Newton’s election is the epitome of the problems facing local elections everywhere, and Madeline Ranalli is one person whose political career could have turned out differently if only more people had participated in the special election. 

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