I am announcing today that I am a candidate for Secretary of State of Massachusetts in 2006, regardless of whether or not it will be an open seat.
I have reached this decision after exploring this candidacy for the past several months. During that time, I have met with people across the state who have urged that I mount this campaign and who are excited by the prospect of a Secretary of State committed to fighting for our democracy and for our right to vote.
I have also witnessed in recent weeks that the incumbent Secretary, William F. Galvin, is failing to live up to his responsibilities as the chief elections officer in the state. Here are a few key examples:
In Lawrence, Massachusetts, thousands of voters were discouraged from participating in the municipal election on November 8, 2005, when the city, in violation of federal and state law, sent them late notices, days before the election, telling them that they were on the inactive voter list. The notices failed to inform the voters that they could still vote and gave the voters little or no time to be reinstated on the active voter list. A coalition of Lawrence city councilors sent a letter to Secretary Galvin on October 20, within 48 hours after these notices were sent, urging that he intervene. Secretary Galvin did not respond. As the election day neared and in the face of Secretary Galvin’s continued silence, I worked with Lawrence city councilors Carlos Matos and Barbara Gonzalez, and with Oíste, the Massachusetts Latino Political Organization. We pressed the ACLU of Massachusetts to file a federal lawsuit to try to remedy the widespread confusion and disenfranchisement the city had caused. (See my blog entry of November 28 for further details.) The court was, unfortunately, unwilling to provide an effective remedy and, as a result, Lawrence had the lowest voter turnout for a mayoral election in fifty years.
The US Department of Justice recently had to sue the City of Boston for discriminating against language minorities in municipal elections, in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The city has settled the case and the Justice Department will now be monitoring Boston elections for the near future to ensure the city’s compliance with federal law. Why does the City of Boston have to be sued by the US Department of Justice in order to ensure that the city complies with the Voting Rights Act?
Democracy advocates in Massachusetts are pushing for Election Day Registration here to make voting easier for all of our citizens. Six states already have Election Day Registration and the reform has proven to be a success. As a way to test the reform here, democracy advocates had proposed a pilot project that would enable towns in Massachusetts to experiment with Election Day Registration in 2006 elections. Secretary Galvin worked behind the scenes in recent days to push the legislature not to implement this pilot project.
Massachusetts deserves better. We deserve a Secretary of State who will lead the nation in fighting for the rights of all citizens to an equal and meaningful vote. As Secretary, I will press for a new bill of rights – a Voters’ Bill of Rights. A new set of guarantees that will make our democracy in Massachusetts stronger and provide an example to the country. I will be a Secretary of State who fights to uphold this nation’s promise of political equality for all.
Fifty years ago today, a courageous woman named Rosa Parks took her seat at the front of a Montgomery bus and refused to move. Her heroic act helped spark the Civil Rights Movement. By sitting down, Rosa Parks inspired millions of people to stand up. And she will remain an inspiration for generations to come.
I was not alive on that day fifty years ago, but I count myself among the many whose lives she touched. Today I take this stand as part of the ongoing struggle for democracy. I hope you will stand with me.