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Why did Democrat leaders on Beacon Hill fail to address signature requirements in elections bill?

CONTACT: Evan Lips, communications director
617-523-5005 ext. 245

WOBURN — Entrenched Democrat leaders on Beacon Hill appear to have ignored an electioneering factor they somehow never saw coming during the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic — the crucial person-to-person gathering of ballot signatures.

“From my own perspective I’m doing most of it (signature collecting) by mail,” House Speaker Robert DeLeo told reporters Monday, after he and Senate President Karen Spilka finished touting an elections bill fast-tracked to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk. 

Massachusetts Republican Chairman Jim Lyons pointed out that most candidates — especially challengers — don’t have the luxury of DeLeo’s $780,000-plus campaign war chest. 
“The so-called ‘robust mail-in balloting’ program promoted by Speaker DeLeo and President Spilka only addresses the upcoming special elections and not upstart campaigns preparing for November,” Lyons said. “ We even saw the Massachusetts Teenage Republicans and the Massachusetts High School Democrats — two opposing groups made up of young people typically on the front lines of signature-gathering efforts — join together to urge the Legislature to act on this problem, only to see Democratic leadership ignore it.“Their inaction guarantees well-heeled incumbents will receive a free pass.”

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kevin O’Connor, whose 86-year-old father has been hospitalized as a result of the virus, must gather 10,000 signatures by the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s May 5 deadline to ensure his place on the ballot. 

“We want the Legislature to bring the law into alignment with the social distancing requirement,” O’Connor said in a recent interview

Meanwhile, candidates for state office only have until April 28 to collect the required number of signatures. New York state has already acted to lower the threshold for signatures in its elections.

“The signature-gathering process involves thousands of social interactions between candidates and voters, yet Democratic leadership clearly ignored this during the bill-making process,” Lyons said. “Grassroots candidates who lack Speaker DeLeo’s unlimited deep pockets will be unable to get on the ballot, and perhaps that’s exactly why Democrat power-brokers ignored this in their bill.

“I call on them to do the right thing.”