Monday, February 06, 2012

Death March to the Ballot

Two of the three candidates for the Dem shot at the US Senate from MA showed at the Boston Latin School forum this week. Jim King arrived on time and had to leave first for another appointment. Marisa DeFranco took a few more questions.

Of particular interest was commentary (a bit of a rant really) about the process of getting on the ballot here in MA. That inspired me to ask the savvy and funny chairman of the MA Democratic Party, John Walsh, to join us on Left Ahead to discuss this. He agreed to do so and will be on Tuesday, February 21st at 2:30 PM Eastern.

The path, using this US Senate contest as an example does in fact sound like a Greek society initiation process. There's an onerous signature-gathering process that dovetails with party caucuses and convention. It certainly doesn't fit the stereotype of anyone-can-run-for-office here.

The major state law is Ch. 53 §6 for the process. It requires candidates to get at least 10,000 signatures of registered Democrats in a 10-week window, this year between February 14th and May 8th.

The party has its own process and requirements, in this case with the effect of law in limiting candidates. At ward caucuses throughout MA, party activists (and a few newcomers, very few) put in their bids to be delegates to the party convention, the first weekend in June, in Springfield this year. The delegates say they want to be a delegate for (candidate) and those elected go. They are not legally bound to vote that way, but that is the norm.

At the convention, there is a single ballot for office. Candidates that get at least 15% of the delegates go on to a primary. That is about 750 delegates. If only one candidate has at least 15%, that slot is not contested in the primary.

That has all the appearance of an insider's game. In its defense, one might say that candidates who have built strong ground organizations, a.k.a. the guys and gals most popular on the political playground, get to advance. That speaks less to ideas and ideals than to pure politicking.

Regardless, John tells me that this process predates his chairmanship of the party, but he knows the way it works. We'll start on that and maybe he can make me smart, at least about this.

If you can't listen to the show live then, go back to that URL, to Left Ahead, or our iTunes page to hear it on-demand.


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