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WOBURN — It took a first-time Republican U.S. Senate candidate, Kevin O’Connor, to point out how out-of-touch the Democrat-dominated Massachusetts Legislature is regarding constitutional law.
On Friday, the Supreme Judicial Court sent a message to Beacon Hill’s Democratic leadership team, especially House Speaker Robert DeLeo, when it acted swiftly to address candidate ballot signature deadlines and thresholds during the time of social-distancing.
“If the Legislature had enacted a law on March 23 imposing harsh new requirements that made it substantially more difficult for candidates to obtain the required signatures to get on the September 1 primary ballot, we no doubt would declare the law unconstitutional,” Chief Justice Ralph Gants wrote in the court’s decision. “The Legislature, of course, did not do this, but it is fair to say that the pandemic did.
“But where fundamental constitutional rights are violated, and where the Legislature fails to remedy the constitutional deficiencies after having had the opportunity to do so, and where an aggrieved litigant files suit seeking remedial relief for the constitutional violation, the judiciary must provide such a remedy.”
It was O’Connor who first called on the Legislature in early March to adapt state signature gathering laws to accommodate social distancing measures. The silence he received in return prompted him to turn to the SJC for constitutional relief.
Per Chief Justice Gants:
“No fair-minded person can dispute that the fundamental right to run for elective office has been unconstitutionally burdened or interfered with by the need to obtain the required ‘wet’ signatures in the midst of this pandemic.”
Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons said Friday he was not surprised that the SJC had to do the Legislature’s job for them.
“It’s telling to me when Beacon Hill’s Democrat leadership team turns a blind eye to constitutional rights and political challengers are forced to petition the state’s highest court to do the job they’re supposed to be doing,” said Lyons. “When Speaker DeLeo wanted to extend his term as speaker, and change the rules to get that done, he did it in a day.
“If he cared as much about protecting democracy, he would’ve addressed this problem in one day as well.”
The SJC’s ruling cuts in half signature thresholds for all candidates and extends the signature-collection deadline for state and county candidates from April 28 until May 5, coinciding with the federal deadline. The ruling also allows for appropriate usage of electronic signatures.
Read the full ruling here.
Supreme Judicial Court to Speaker DeLeo et al. — Ensuring free and elections is among the most basic constitutional principles, so why did we have to do your job for you?
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