Thursday, December 22, 2005

Bonifaz Stumbles Out

Secretary of the Commonwealth candidate John Bonifaz is trying, but he blew today’s op-ed in the Boston Globe. He wants to put the Secretary into a morally superior and legally questionable role in the current anti-same-sex-marriage petition drive.

His call is for Secretary William Galvin:

  • To withhold certification of the signatures
  • Do not take town and city clerks’ certifications
  • Contact individual signers to see if their names should be on the petition

Certainly, this petition process is driven by odium and spite. As assuredly, the paid and volunteer signature gathers coerced, badgered and tricked some into signing. Disgracefully, our area RC Bishops and Archbishop politicized their religious services to aid the ill-willed reactionaries driving this initiative.

And yet, Bonifaz is clearly playing cheap politics here and not doing a good job.

We may well endorse him eventually. His accomplishments at and credentials from the National Voting Rights Institute are very promising. Now, he has to show that he can do the right thing for Massachusetts.

Quite simply, it is the process, not this single petition, at fault here. Bonifaz has opened himself up to accurate criticism that he does not understand the law or process. He clearly wants to raise his profile in campaigning for the office, but this is a clumsy way to pop out of the trenches.

The town and city clerks have the responsibility to certify their local signatures or disqualify them. The Secretary may not second-guess them, except in those cases where voters notify his office about specific fraud.

The AG could have and should have prevented the signature drive. He chose not to and may lose a court battle over this.

That written, we contend that this system is broken. The Secretary, Attorney General, Governor and General Court should get the analysis and fixes underway.

Let’s start with:

  • Ballot initiatives have a noble purpose of acting as a check on terrible legislation.
  • Narrow political and business interests have usurped the process.
  • Penalties for fraud in the process are very low.
  • Numbers of signers and legislators required for a ballot are far too few.
  • Hired-gun signature gathers put the lie to citizen participation.
  • Adhere to the laws that say initiatives cannot overrule a court decision and cannot follow similar ones within three years.
  • Town and city clerks can be overwhelmed and do a poor job when flooded with petitions.
  • There is no mechanism for verification, even with fraud is provable, as in this case.

A decent analysis can turn up others and provide a list of remedies to consider. Let’s get this in the works before we end up in ballot hell, like California. Pushing for such reform is something meaningful that Bonifaz can do.


Anonymous said...

Wait a sec... Bonifaz simply said that Galvin should have denied certification UNTIL he had conducted an investigation into the alleged fraud. Is there any kind of specific prohibition from the Secretary of State doing this? Even if he finds fraud but still certifies the initiative, I would think that's a good thing if he has to certify it for legal reasons but makes a strong public statement that there was fraud. I don't know the nuances of the law, but I think that the point is just that public officials ought to take a stand on such things.

MassEquality has been calling foul on this for quite some time. I believe they have evidence of fraud on this one.

Given the number of signatures turned in, my feeling is: okay, they got enough. But if there is still fraud, I want my elected officials to say/do something about it. They didn't. Bonifaz did. So I think that's good.

massmarrier said...

Nah, he's both missing the real issue -- the form that ballot initiatives have taken. This one is lame and should never have gone to signatures. Yet, havig done so, the Dark Forces followed the rules. Change the rules, I say.