Thursday, January 26, 2006

Count 'em and Weep

The theme today is that Massachusetts' ballot initiatives have become dirty and a disservice to voters.

Evidence will re-appear today, as MassEquality presents proof of at least 2,000 fraudulent local signatures signed the petition to put an anti-SSM amendment on the 2008 ballot. These signatures were either forgeries or the voters were tricked into signing.

At a press conference, they will call for Attorney General Tom Reilly and Secretary of State Bill Galvin to investigate how the fraud occurred on the VoteOnMarriage drive. The Boston Globe quoted MassEquality's campaign director, Marc Solomon as saying, "In just our cursory examination, we found more than 2,000 people who stated that they were victims of fraud, forgery, trickery, or deception. I am confident that there are tens of thousands of additional fraudulent signatures."

In its typical style, the Boston Herald found two B-List names to drop.
  1. Channel 7 sports director, Joe Amorosino was "outraged to realize that my name had been used for such a cause."
  2. Lefty civil-rights lawyer Barbara Dougan was "just astounded and then I was very angry. How dare someone steal my signature and my professional credibility."
That double harrumph is good press. Similarly the VoteOnMarriage folk are even more amusing. Their Website opening page claims publicly revealing the public record of who signed the list makes their supporters victims. Unfortunately for them, that falls in the something is going on around here that surely, surely, surely won't stand the light of day class.

Of course, in the short term, none of the claims changes anything. The anti folk presented over 170,000 signatures. After town and city clerks did their best to weed out the obvious fraud, duplicates and errors, more than 123,000 went to Galvin's office for the sprinkling of approval. Even if 2,000 or 4,000 or 10,000 are scam sigs, the measure slithers its way to the General Court for action.

Why bother, many ask? The answers are obvious. The petition driver feigned morality and seemingly used or permitted paid-by-the-sign gatherers to do whatever they wanted to fill out the forms. That was illegal, immoral, undemocratic and an insult to the voters and the initiative process.

We are very much in favor of the public and legislature having a taste of how nasty this process was, as was the last failed initiative's. Running tallies of the crimes are useful in catalyzing the necessary improvements.

The resolution is that the General Court needs to show some wit and gumption. Examine the ballot-initiative process. Fine-tune it so that it serves the original, noble purposes, while precluding the abuses we have seen recently.

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